Learn some good principles of public speaking from this video of Otto Warmbier's high school graduation speech. This video is not only a public speaking analysis, but also a tribute to Otto. I recommend you watch it all the way through.
Posted by Potent Speaking on Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Hi Potent Speakers, I wanted to show you a high school graduation speech that I found online the other day. And this particular speech was very well done so there are a few things that you can learn. Let’s get started.
Otto: Hello everyone when I was told that I’d have the honour of speaking at graduation my first instinct was to find some keywords… some intellectual college thesaurus words and build my speech around those. However my initial attempt at a treatise on the eminent graduation of the current stratum of Wyoming high school seniors came across as a bit dry and pretentious so I decided it was probably best if I looked for some help. Surely someone in the past however many years has found the right way to say goodbye to 153 seniors in just a few words.
Gio: Usually you want to avoid talking about how you came up with your speech but in a high school graduation speech this isn’t necessarily a bad move. In fact it comes across as relatable, and as you’ll see in a second it transitions well.
Otto: A quick Google search for graduation quotes gave me the words of great speakers like John F Kennedy Martin Luther King jr. and Winston Churchill great authors like JK Rowling and Ernest Hemingway and great athletes like Mike Tyson.
Gio: This part of the speech is really smart. Otto uses lists of three which are appealing to the ear then he uses the classic comedic technique called the rule of three. Basically you list two things that are expected then end with one thing that isn’t expected. And also the way he says Mike Tyson quickly and with a strained face adds to the humor.
Otto: Unfortunately I wasn’t quite satisfied with what these speakers, writers, or even Iron Mike had to say so I decided to resort to a fail-proof method of research I’m sure all of my fellow graduates are very familiar with. Get frustrated, give up, and go watch TV.
Gio: This is yet another relatable comment. He is establishing some serious rapport with the audience. However at this point he’s over a minute into the speech, so it’s a good idea to wrap up the intro and move into the meat of the speech or what he actually wants to get across.
Otto goes on to talk about the TV show the office and he quotes Andy Bernard:
Otto: “I wish there was a way to know that you’re in the good old days before you’ve already left them.” To me that one sentence completely captures the feeling in this graduation. This is our season finale. This is the end of one great show but just the beginning to hundreds of new spinoffs. Today marks the splitting of a group that has exceeded everyone’s expectations, but our plot wasn’t without its low points.
Gio: Otto uses the metaphor of a movie or a TV show to describe the high school experience, which is an effective speech device. It adds character to the speech and makes for a smooth transition from the quote. He then continues and lists some humorous and serious highs and lows.
Otto: This is our last day together as Wyoming high school’s class of 2013. Tomorrow morning we will all belong to another class another job or another city. No matter where we go or what we do though we will always have this group here. Even when Wyoming class of 2013 is a thing of the past we’ll have the support of all of these people around us. We’ll have the knowledge we gained as a group and we’ll have the reruns: memories we’ve created to be played over and over again. Thank you.
Gio: This is a great closing to the speech. Otto acknowledges that while life will go on this piece of history will forever remain. He uses the show metaphor and concludes with a thank you. He should have paused before the thank you because he dropped the moment by rushing to the end but overall it was a great example of a high school graduation speech.
In just four short minutes Otto’s speech elicited feelings of closeness, of joy and nostalgia. And these feelings were to become his life theme. If you didn’t already know, this young man passed away recently. You may have heard about a year ago a young college kid from the United States went to North Korea and decided for some reason to destroy a propaganda poster and was sentenced to years 15… 15 years of hard labor in North Korea.
About a year later he was released to the United States in a coma, and shortly thereafter he passed away. Otto’s life represents what can happen when a few minuscule bad decisions are combined with extreme circumstances. It reminds us that we cannot take our lives for granted, that our lives are very short indeed, and just as he quoted in his speech “We don’t always know we’re in the good old days until we’ve already left them.”