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how to write a valedictorian speech 2020

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

You thought earning the highest grades to become the valedictorian in your high school graduating class was tough. But, writing a memorable valedictorian speech will be the real challenge. After all, as a high point of your class commencement ceremony, this once-in-a-lifetime moment honors not only four years of high school but must encourage everyone to look forward to the future. It's a tall order but follow our five tips below to write a valedictorian speech that your audience hears, remembers, and draws inspiration from.

1. Start writing with a goal or theme in mind.

A helpful way to start is by understanding the unique goal of your valedictorian speech. Of course, you want to deliver a fitting send-off message to your graduating class. Still, to be memorable, you must also get them excited about the future as if an epic adventure starts soon. If you watch the winners in our NSHSS Virtual Valedictorian Speeches , you'll find a recurring idea or central theme cementing each speech.

Examples of themes suited for high school graduation include:

By establishing a personal theme, you'll produce a unique valedictorian speech that only you could write.

2. Make your valedictorian speech about everybody but you.

Don't turn your valedictorian speech into a mini-biography of your high school accomplishments. While you're welcome to add personal anecdotes for flavor, it would be best to talk about everyone else in your class. It might take extra work to find out what the four years have been like for them. However, it will provide you with memories and insights (based on your theme) that their family and friends are eager to hear. That will guarantee your valedictorian speech achieves stellar status.

3. Recount the highlights of four years in high school.

To make your valedictorian speech genuinely unforgettable, you can tap graduation's unavoidable nostalgia by recounting the highlights of the past four years in high school. Sure, four years may not be a lifetime, but everyone in your class takes away lifelong memories from such a short period. The most captivating valedictorian speech writer knows which treasured memories to choose resonates with everybody. In addition, you can include global events of importance through your high school years. As the person representing your class, your reminiscing is a privilege afforded to the valedictorian.

4. See your high school years with a sense of humor.

Reading your greatest hits of high school memories like a shopping list will quickly bore your crowd. Why don't you write your valedictorian speech with a fusion of humor, no matter how tiny? We suggest making a big splash with something funny to open your address then doling it out in smaller doses for the rest. The best kind of joke to charm your listeners is self-deprecating humor, such as something you (the valedictorian) failed at in high school. Funny memories about quirky teachers and favorite classes can likewise immerse your audience. It's a fun way to liven up your valedictorian speech.

5. Leave your audience inspired!

You've honored the past four years with many cherished memories recalled in a celebratory way. The other half of your valedictorian speech should inspire your fellow students. We suggest writing a clear call to action to end your address. You're not at your commencement to pick up your diploma. You're there to see everyone off to all the places they'll go after graduating. To leave everyone feeling inspired to face their next challenge, you can end your valedictorian speech with an inspirational quote. Since you and your fellow graduates should try to live by this quote going forwards, choose one that's tied to your theme and leaves everyone motivated.

 Examples of quotes suited for high school graduation include:

There's no perfect valedictorian speech but follow these five tips to write a memorable one. While your address is vital to the ceremony, remember to keep it short and sweet. Unless otherwise instructed, cut it to ten minutes maximum, so people stay attentive. Finally, imagine yourself twenty years from now watching your valedictorian speech on YouTube. Will you regret anything you've written?


Since 2002, NSHSS has supported young academics on their journey to college and beyond as they prepare to become the leaders of tomorrow. The mission behind NSHSS is to recognize academic excellence and honor high-achieving students, providing them with the resources and network to excel in college, career and community. In doing so, NSHSS connects members with global events,  scholarship opportunities ,  college fairs, internships, career and  leadership programs ,   partner discounts, and more. Discover   what makes NSHSS worth it   to student members and how you can get involved. 

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Looking for an example of a valedictorian speech ? You'll find one below. Use it to inspire you to write your own speech. You can add and change the details to personalize it to your own situation.

Example Valedictorian Speech by Graduate

"Valedictorian" derives from the Latin phrase vale dicere, meaning to say farewell. In some nations, the student with the highest grade average of a graduating class accepts the role and delivers the final goodbye speech at the graduation event, the valedictorian address. (Valedictorian. (2018, November 14). Retrieved from )

In an excellent example of a valedictorian speech, the speaker gives thanks to faculty and administrators, celebrates and reflects on experiences with classmates, and inspires graduates to excel in the future. Afterward, the school officials hand out diplomas and send the students on to the next stage of life.

Being your class Valedictorian is a great honor and achievement. Giving a speech that lives up to your prior success is a challenge. Important things to remember about giving a valedictory graduation speech are that:

Start of my example of a valedictorian speech

Principal Stevens, Trustees, Faculty members, family, friends and fellow graduates, today is a day to be thankful and to be inspired.

how to write a valedictorian speech 2020

Body of the valedictorian speech

First, we have much to be thankful for. Here at Peterson School we have received a great education thanks to our fine administration and teachers. We are prepared to move on and to take on whatever challenges come next in our lives.

Fellow graduates, I want you to know what a great gift it is to be as prepared as we are, because not all schools offer such an advantage. Here we have had a high degree of academic excellence and whether you intend to continue your education or not, you will benefit from what you learned here.

We can also be thankful for our families. These past four years have presented us with a lot of ups and downs and it is good to know that we had our families in our corner, supporting us along the way. Thanks Mom and Dad. I would not be here today without you.

Finally, we can be thankful for each other. The friendships that we have made here will last a lifetime. In the same way we have supported each other and helped each other succeed in these years at Peterson, I hope we will continue to provide support and encouragement for each other in future endeavors.

Now, what can we be inspired by today?

Personally, I am inspired by our classmate Alan Rockford who has overcome so much adversity to be here graduating today. Alan, you have been tenacious and have had such a great attitude in the face of so many setbacks. Whenever I get a little down about something that didn't turn out just the way I wanted it to, I remember some of the talks we have had and it gives me the perspective I need. Thank you for that, congratulations, and all the best!

I'm also inspired by Bill Thomas and Tony Marcos who are leaving later this week for Marine boot camp. Billy and Tony, I honor you for making the choice to serve our country and I feel proud to know you. Please take care of yourselves and keep in touch.

Conclusion of the valedictorian speech

Often on graduation day we look outside for heroes but I see them right here among us. I have seen in my years at Peterson that we don't have to look far for inspiration and that we each have the potential to make an inspiring contribution to others, by being true to our values and committing ourselves to lofty goals.

When you leave here today, celebrate what you have accomplished, but look forward with an eye toward how you, too, can be the inspiration for others.

Congratulations Class of 2015!

Listen to this speech

End of the valedictorian speech

Find an additional example of a valedictorian speech here  submitted by Leon.

Watch a video example of a valedictorian speech by Paul Stephen . While the video is low-res, Paul's speech is substantial and includes great humor and attention gathering quotes. 

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how to write a valedictorian speech 2020

Valedictorian Speech – Class of 2020

Dear Mr. Smith, teachers, parents, guests and fellow students, 1 believe it is safe to say that we have found ourselves in a rather unique position this year. We are a graduating class that hasn’t written exams, hasn’t had prom, abistreich or even a regular graduation ceremony. Many of us are still torn between thinking we are the luckiest grade 12 in history, or the unluckiest. But there are a few considerations I would like to share with you in that regard. To begin with, the IB (International Baccalaureate) is indeed a two year course. The exams are really only a test of your knowledge, but when it comes to the subject matter, you should have learned everything you need in the last two years. At least, that’s the theory. So, from that angle, we are very lucky. In most of our subjects we had managed to complete the whole syllabus, or at least most of it, before exams got cancelled. Therefore, we haven’t missed out on any of that vital wisdom our teachers wished to impart on us before we left LIS for good. But, as Mr. Allen is always quick to remind us, school is more than just a place of learning. It is the place where most of us met our closest friends, and where we have so far -I hope – spent the majority of our time.

There has always been quite the variety of after school activities to help pad our CAS portfolios, from GISST to Big Band to Drama. Here again, I consider us to be fortunate for not having to miss out on a lot of these activities. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, however. I’m sure we’ve all daydreamed – or maybe even properly dreamed – of that glorious moment where we walked out of our last exam, thus finally ending the pain and suffering of the international baccalaureate in one happy sigh of relief. We’ve all imagined the parties we would hold, the friends we would hug and the teachers we would shake hands with – but we have not had the privilege of experiencing that feeling. So I suppose the relief of not needing to study has come at a price, whether we like to admit it to ourselves or not. But here’s the thing. This might sound strange coming from me, whose only claim to fame happens to be being pretty good at the whole school thing, but there is a world beyond LIS and a life after the IB. Many of us will be going to University next year, which will also have final exams for you to experience. Others will be doing a gap year, which, I’ve been told, usually does consist of a lot of partying. So in the end, we really won’t be missing out on all that much after all. Before I move on the part of the speech where I thank a whole lot of people, 1 would like to reflect on the “LIS experience” as a whole. On the one hand, I learned a lot academically – from the various history facts that Mr. Sands taught me to impress girls at parties (It’ll work someday) to how much I hate Shakespeare (thanks Mr. Allen). But as I said before, school is more than just a place where we learn about calculus and the Calvin cycle – it is also a place for personal development. To illustrate what I mean, let me tell you a quick story. Just the other day, I was walking into school when Ms. Steffi stopped me at reception. She asked me “Do you remember what you did when you first came to the school?” I had vague recollections of my various exploits as a young kid, but I wasn’t sure what exactly she was referring to, so I said “Not really”. She said, “You bit your teacher, Ms. Hall”. I did indeed remember that, and I was ever so slightly embarrassed. But then she told me “I must say you’ve developed pretty well, considering.” That was very nice to hear, and it really got me to think about my own journey up to this point in my life. I know it’s been different for everyone, and quite a few of you haven’t been at the school for all that much time, but I believe that if you really dig deep, you too will discover the positive influence that being at this school had on you.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to those who helped me get to a point where I haven’t bitten anyone in about ten years. To all my friends, I’m not supposed to say names but you know who you are, thank you for making sure that not a single day went by where I haven’t had a reason to laugh or smile. To my family, thank you for giving me a place to sleep and food at regular intervals, and for giving me all the help that I needed to reach whatever goals I had. And to my teachers, thank you for always pushing me, keeping me motivated and most importantly, thank you for sharing with us your love for the subjects you teach. Finally, to all my classmates sitting here today, you are the ones that have kept school life interesting, from school trips to classroom conversations, all of you have made a positive contribution to LIS in some way or another. For those reasons, and a thousand reasons more, I will always remember you and the time I spent at LIS, with a smile on my face. Thank you.

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how to write a valedictorian speech 2020

valedictory-speech-2020   //


March 1983​​-2023


​Vale​dictory Address

Faith oneya, master of arts in digital journalism programme, class of 2020​.

Chief Guest Dr Rashid Abid Aman,  Members of the Board of Trustees,  President Firoz Rasul,  Provost Carl Amrhein, Members of Faculty,  My Fellow Graduates,  Our dear family members and friends present here today, Distinguished guests,  Ladies and gentlemen

Good Morning!

Nelson Mandela once said that education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world and on this auspicious occasion, as we look back and celebrate the achievements of the graduates, it’s my deep belief that each of us graduating today is gaining power to change the world. 

I’m proud to be part of an outstanding graduating class of 2020 who are drawn from the Medical College, School of Nursing and Midwifery, the Institute for Educational Development, and the latest addition to the growing Aga Khan University family, the Graduate School of Media and Communications. I am deeply honoured to be a pioneer member of the Master of Arts in Digital Journalism programme and extremely humbled to present this valedictory speech today. 

That we are all graduating today is testament our hard work, commitment and the sacrifices we have all made over the last few years. I’m convinced that the happiness radiating in the room today lies both in the joy of our academic achievements and the thrill of the collective effort to get here. 

The titles of the courses we undertook may have been different but the academic toil was the same. Today, we leave behind a rigorous academic life.  We leave behind the tough balancing act of work, family and school. 

The greatest sacrifice for me was in the time I spent away from my family-especially my daughter-but what kept me going was that this was necessary pain and it has been worth it for me as I’m sure it has been for my fellow graduates. We expertly negotiated vicious traffic as we tried to make it on time for morning and evening classes. We have had sleepless nights, finishing up a steady stream of assignments, reading tough academic books and we have written even tougher exams. But we are here. We made it. 

Writing an exam or academic paper, as we know, is a solitary endeavour. Can be quite a lonely affair. Yet the success of any graduate relies on the support of those around them. 

I would like to say thank you to some of the people who’ve walked the academic journey with us.

First of all, I would like to extend a special thank you to His Highness the Aga Khan, The Chancellor of Aga Khan University for his visionary leadership and generous donations that support the existence of the university. It is his vision that has enabled us have access to quality education. 

To our sponsors, thank you for believing in us and allowing us the privilege to chase our dreams through education. As a member of the pioneer class of the Graduate School of Media and Communications, I wish to extend special thanks to the German government through KfW and BMZ for providing scholarships to support our academic pursuit. Asanteni Sana. 

To the members of faculty, thank you for pushing us to greater academic heights than we would have imagined possible. Thank you for relentlessly and tirelessly pushing us forward even when we pushed back or complained quit loudly sometimes. Your understanding nature and unwavering support was essential to our academic victory today. 

To the school administration, librarians and all the staff at Aga Khan University who, in different ways, supported us in the pursuit of education, we say thank you. 

We remain indebted to our family members and friends who have invested and sacrificed time, money and a lot more to get us to where we are today. All these accolades demonstrate that indeed it takes a village for one to succeed. 

Ladies and gentlemen, please indulge me a little as I take you back to my initial interaction with Aga Khan University. As part of my application to join the Master of Arts in Digital Journalism Programme, one of the questions I had to answer was: Why did you choose Aga Khan University? 

I’ll not tell you the answer I wrote, because it did nothing to capture the essence and uniqueness of Aga Khan University. But I will tell you what I should have written, for these are the things I treasured the most in my two-year academic journey. 

One of the things that sets this university apart from the rest is the student-centred approach to education. If you are like me, who came from a background where the teacher was the law and interaction between the teacher and students limited, then the Aga Khan University approach may have startled you too. 

I was puzzled. What did they mean? Weren’t we coming to class to be lectured and instructed about what to do?​

Let me put this in perspective. The lecturers were available to us whenever we needed them and their support can’t be overstated. The teaching format was also flexible, fun and very immersive. Which is not to say that the programmes were not extremely demanding or intellectually engaging. Learning too was very experiential. We were highly encouraged to voice our opinions and share feedback with the lecturers and in this way, we always felt valued as students. These are the things that made Aga Khan University extremely exceptional for me. 

The Aga Khan University has not just been a place where we've built knowledge; we have also created wonderful networks that we will carry into the future. I know I’m speaking for a lot of us when I say that our interpersonal and leadership skills were tested and sharpened through class discussions, group work and class projects. 

To the doctors, nurses, teachers and journalists graduating today, I urge you to put a dent in the universe through the impact you create in your respective professions by putting your patients, students and audiences at the centre of everything you do. 

As someone who believes in lifelong learning, I hope this is just the beginning for all of us. I draw from the wisdom of Kimani Maruge, the Guinness World Record holder for the oldest man to enrol in primary school at 84, who said that he would never stop learning until he had soil in his ears. May you never stop learning.

Congratulations Class of 2019. 

God Bless Aga Khan University.​​


Convocation 2020

Address by Chief Guest Dr Rashid Aman

Address by President

Our G​​​raduates

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2020 Valedictorian Speeches: Turn Your ‘I Would Haves’ Into ‘I Dids’

May 21, 2020

how to write a valedictorian speech 2020

The Class of 2020 didn’t get the closure they were expecting. They had to leave the rhythm of high school or college abruptly, and join a world full of uncertainty.

And that is what the top students from Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School in Nashville decided to write about as part of our series of 2020 Valedictorian Speeches. Mert Sekmen and Neeraj Namburu say they’ve learned to turn the “I would haves” into “I dids.”

Listen to their collaborative speech or read the transcript below:

M: Hey, it’s your co-valedictorian, Mert. N: And your other co-valedictorian, Neeraj. M: We’d firstly like to say hello to the teachers, parents, friends, and of course the talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show-stopping, spectacular, and never-the-same MLK Class of 2020. We’ve finally made it to the day that many of you, if you’re like me, have had marked on your calendar since you were little. But man, even though we’ve come to this day I’ve anticipated for God knows how long, sitting here writing this speech, I find myself speech-less. Many of us were robbed of our Senior Nights, our last recitals, our last musical productions, our last civic engagement events, our last prom, and the list could go on and on and on. Worst of all though, we were robbed of our valuable last moments with each other, because it was never about what the Class of 2020 was doing, but it was about the fact that we were doing it together. N: This one year never has, and never will be able to define who we are, and who we will be as a class. What defined us as a class, was … well … us. I know that for the last four years — well, 3.75 years — every time I looked up during lunch I always saw: Courtesy of Mert Sekmen Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet School’s class of 2020 poses for a class picture. The athletes, reminding us about physical and mental perseverance. The civic leaders, showing us to fight for what we believe in. The musicians, demonstrating that practice makes perfect. The techies, teaching us about the innovations of tomorrow. And the artists, who showed us you can express yourself in whatever medium you want. These were the people that we learned from, and even though we might not always be with each other in the future, the lessons we learned will. Find your moment, and use the lessons you learned to live life how you want it. M: I know it also feels like when you reach the end in the fashion that we did, it’s easy to focus on the “would haves:” I would have played harder than I ever had during my last soccer game to the point my legs would fall off. N: I would have wanted to take in all the bustling sounds of a class change before I had to rush across the whole building. M: I would have said goodbye one last time to my dearest friends and teachers who have shaped who I am today. Courtesy of Neeraj Namburu Neeraj Namburu and his classmates enjoy a field trip to the zoo. N: Instead of being bogged down in the “would haves,” just take a step back and breathe, remember to enjoy every moment in the present because you never know if that moment you just had, was really your last. Turn your “I would haves” into your “I dids.” M: As Benjamin Franklin once said, “There are three things certain in life: death, taxes, and changes to the lunch schedule every year.” To build off of that: The only thing we know about the future is that it is unknown. However, we know that everyone here will accomplish fantastic things in the future, and our relentless perseverance in the face of difficulty is testimony to that. N: Thanks! M: Congratulations! N: And remember to wash your hands! M&N: Class of 2020 out!

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Graduating Class of 2020 valedictorian speech

Dyson Blitterswyk addresses his Chemainus Secondary School classmates

Valedictorian Dyson Blitterswyk with fellow graduate Steven Wong. (Photo submitted)

Valedictorian Dyson Blitterswyk with fellow graduate Steven Wong. (Photo submitted)

(Following is the valedictory speech by Dyson Blitterswyk to the Chemainus Secondary School Class of 2020 on Friday, June 19)

Good evening classmates, administrators, teachers and all other staff of Chemainus Secondary. I would like to recognize the people who have helped me to get where I am today. Surely, I am not reading this strictly because of my own achievements, but because of the kind and caring hearts of those who have guided me on my path through high school. Thank you to those people. All teachers, counsellors, secretaries, educational assistants and other faculty of the school district, particularly Mrs. Hryniuk and Ms. Hittinger. A special thanks to Mrs. Ylagan for helping with the editing process of this very speech. As well, thank you to my friends and peers for being such great classmates, I’m honoured to graduate alongside you all.

These past five years have been an unforgettable experience that not one single grad in this gym will forget. I have always heard adults say that high school is such a small part of our lives, and so we should enjoy these years because they will be some of the best we’ll ever have.

I know that five years isn’t much compared to a lifetime, but when the five years are filled with as many good moments as these were, how could anyone forget? I know that I couldn’t. Early September of 2015 was the start of our Grade 8 year. I remember sitting around a fire at night with my family, two days before I started high school, terrified of what experiences I would possibly have to endure for five straight years. They told me that all would be well, and that high school was a place for me to express myself and my interests, make new friends whilst keeping old ones, and learn new things to prepare myself for a career in a chosen field.

In movies and shows, high school is stereotypically portrayed as being a horrible place riddled with bullies, mean teachers, and students being stuffed in lockers, but this is largely exaggerated when compared to the community of Chemainus Secondary. And while I’m not saying that these things don’t exist in our school, I am saying that we need to cherish those happy and uplifting moments.

I remember my first day all too well, and I’m sure a lot of my peers do as well. Some of us were shy and nervous about our new classes and teachers, while some of us immediately became accustomed to high school life. The staff was all very supporting from day one and we will always remember their kindness. I remember being shocked at how the school had two floors, and at the fancy water fountain outside the changerooms.

We were first introduced to Day 1 and Day 2 courses and the mandatory use of an agenda. Most of us quickly adapted to using a locker, switching between classrooms out of pure memory, and being able to leave school grounds at lunchtime. Maybe for some of us, the comfort provided by our newly-made friends and peers will always be remembered. While some friendships have changed, others were made later on, even by those who joined us a few years later. Different friend groups exist and different cliques have been formed based on our interests and means of expressing ourselves, but altogether we are a whole.

The community of our grad class is very positive, and looking past any drama or disagreements, we have supported each other to achieve our goals from the very beginning. Through the many tough math exams, painstakingly large projects, and physically exhausting PE fitness tests, we have been there for each other. As a class, we have helped maintain a solid foundation for a school community that provides support to everyone.

In Grades 8 and 9, the senior students always seemed so much older and wiser, like experienced adults. Now that I’m there, I realize that we’re still so young. The grade 12s are seen as leaders of the student body, and whether or not we each want to be leaders, our actions speak to younger students. I, along with a vast majority of the students graduating with me today, were members of leadership. It was our job to organize school-wide events such as the Terry Fox Run, winter luncheon, compassion week and the bi-annual gym riots.

Gym riots were always a great school activity for all students and teachers, we would all cheer on our friends and peers on our colour-coded teams. From the relay races and games of full-contact musical chairs, to the rubber chicken toss and the newspaper fashion shows, we celebrated our differences and strengths and embraced our connections as a school. In the “dark year” of Grade 11, we had the bad winter storm that caused power outages to the entire Cowichan Valley, which also happened to be right during the winter luncheon of that year. We all congregated as a school to sit together, a new tradition we have since moved onto.

To be seen by the younger grades as a positive influence is, and should be, an honour to us all. Whether we were part of leadership or not, our status as senior students has come with so many responsibilities. High school comes with many different freedoms and there are so many potentially life-changing choices to be made during our time here. The reason we all stand here today at this ceremony is because we took the right paths that would lead us to be here, in this very moment. This graduation brings us all together no matter how much we know one another, and it marks the beginning of a new stage in each of our lives.

We each have our own futures ahead of us; and whether our paths drift apart forever, continue on together, or possibly converge later in the future, we will always remember each other. Some of us know what we want to do next year and during the years to come, while some of us have not yet decided or may change our minds halfway through our post-secondary education. Some of us have taken a dual credit program to get a head start on our careers, and some of us have experienced heavy course loads to obtain any prerequisite courses we may need for college or university. Some friend groups will split up and head to different parts of Canada. Even so, some friends are going to the same universities and will even attend the same classes, and some are planning to either travel or begin working. Whatever happens, I know close friends will remain in contact with each other through their adventures as a high school graduate.

This year, our class and many grad parents helped organize fundraisers for prom and any grad celebrations. As a class, we took part in the grad pie toss as well as the coffee drive, volunteer work at the firehall, and the enormous community bottle drive. Since our earliest years as a grad class, we have been on multiple field trips and attended many events together, from the Grade 9 trip to the Sidney corn maze and the Physics Day trip to the PNE, to the tour of Camosun College and the Grade 12 District 79 Barbecue. The class of 2020 is also extremely lucky to have provincial exams removed from the curriculum right before our grad year. We all know that saved us from a lifetime of studying.

As we all know, 2020 has had an extreme impact on everyone in this room, possibly more severe than any year that we have previously lived through. The school fires were an occurrence never before seen by our class and a crazy experience to witness. As a school community, we all came together and worked to keep each other safe and secure. Although we are fortunate to have sustained no injuries from the incident other than the few cold hands and uncomfortably wet clothes from the conditions outside, we had no idea that March 6 would be the last day we would be together as a class.

With the global outbreak of COVID-19, school had to be carried out in a completely new and unseen way, vastly different than it was before. Classes became virtual, peers became distant, and homework became just simply, work. Teachers put in a lot of effort to transform their courses from in-person to online and did their best to support the education of each and every student through these unprecedented times.

Since March, our daily lives have changed. We don’t see each other every weekday, we can’t hang out the same way we used to and we can’t get nearly as close to those who we care about. The student parking lot used to be almost full and now it’s completely empty. These last few months were supposed to be the times where we would be the closest as a grad class, with many celebrations and events to commemorate our successful journey through the trials of high school.

Prom was postponed and the grad camping trip was cancelled. All of this is very unfortunate, and we are exceedingly unlucky to have had our grad year set directly in the middle of a pandemic, but we all need to look on the bright side of things. Despite what’s happening in the world right now, we are resilient. Compared to other parts of the world, we are lucky. Graduation is a life event that cannot be overshadowed, and it cannot be forgotten. We all stand here as graduates, and whether we stand all together or as distanced individuals, we are still the class of 2020. As disappointing as it is, we have all learned life lessons in determination and have each remained steadfast in our academic progress. We have grown both as individuals and as a team, and we have risen resolutely from the ashes of our senior year. Growing from our disappointments, the class of 2020 will be remembered not as the class that missed out, but the class that came together and exceeded despite everything that was thrown at us.

Congratulations to all of us, the class of 2020. Good luck to all and may everyone find happiness in what the future holds.

Coronavirus Graduation 2020

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how to write a valedictorian speech 2020

High School Graduation Speech Samples

Kelly has more than 12 years experience as a professional writer and editor.

Learn about our Editorial Policy .

Writing a speech for a high school graduation is a big responsibility, and the task can be a little intimidating. With a few tips and some sample graduation speeches to look at, you could quickly be on your way to writing a very engaging speech of your own.

Sample Speeches for High School Graduation

The following speeches are samples meant to help inspire your own creativity. You can click to download them and edit for your own use. If you like the style or sentiment of a particular speech, think of how it applies to your own high school experience, and use that as the basis for an original speech of your own. If you have any trouble downloading, please review the troubleshooting guide .

Sample One: How We'll Measure These Years

The first sample is a speech that talks about how things have changed over the high school years.

Sample Two: The Future Is in Our Hands

The second example focuses more on what the future holds for a high school graduate.

Sample Three: A Debt of Gratitude

The third sample is about giving thanks and recognizing those who have helped everyone successfully graduate from high school.

Sample Four: Inspirational Moments for Life

This last sample speech is an inspirational high school graduation speech that asks each student to look back on some of the moments from high school that will inspire them forever.

Example of a Humorous Valedictorian Speech

The following video offers a great example of a graduation speech that really speaks to the graduates while being humorous, appropriate and entertaining. If you have a natural gift for humor, a funny speech like this will be remembered long after other graduation memories have begun to fade.

Tips for Writing a Graduation Speech

Whether you're writing a speech for your homeschool graduation, as the class Valedictorian, or a graduation thank you speech , there are a few tips for speech writing that can make your talk meaningful and memorable.

Know Your Audience

Even though parents, faculty, and members of the community will be on hand, the focus of your speech should be your classmates. Speak to them!

Grab Their Attention

A good speech grabs the audience's attention and never lets that attention go. Start off with an attention grabbing question, or make a strong statement that provokes curiosity about where the speech is going. Don't be afraid to use humor in your speech. Having a theme for the speech is also helpful.

Tell Stories

Don't just read your speech. Tell your speech by interspersing emotional stories that tug at the heartstrings or inspire positive actions for the future. You might even want to include an original poem to help express your feelings.

Include Everyone

Don't just speak to the academic achievers, the sports stars, or the popular crowd. Your topic should be all inclusive of your graduating class.

Keep It Short, But Not Too Short

Knowing how long a high school graduation speech should be is important before you start writing. Student speeches at high school graduations are generally between five and 10 minutes long, but closer to five is ideal.

End With a Memorable Message

High school graduation speeches by students and special guests often end with a memorable, and actionable sentence that encourages the audience to do something great. It is customary to end by saying "Thank you" in your graduation speech , which you can do after your memorable one-liner.

Don't Wear Out Your Welcome

A really great commencement speech is enjoyed, not simply endured. Put some serious thought into your speech, say something meaningful, and stick to your topic so your message doesn't get lost. Above all, don't talk too long. Remember that everyone wants to receive their diplomas, shed those caps and gowns , and get on with the celebration .

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31 Graduation Speeches: Speeches You Give in Pointy Hats

A picture of a graduate and his grandfather

Graduation is a big day for graduates, their families, and teachers. If you are called to give a graduation speech, you want to make it special.  I want to share with you what makes a good graduation speech and give you tips on how to write one that will make an impact.

As we begin, you need to wrap your mind around two main things:

There are two main types of graduation speakers, the student speaker, and the headline speaker. At one college at our university, there is a speech contest to be the graduation speaker and at another college, it is someone who has been nominated by a faculty member. How you get there varies from place to place At the local high school, the valedictorian is often the speaker. I recently went to high school graduation and they had seven valedictorians so they had seven speakers–yes, it was as long as you can imagine.

When thinking about giving a graduation speech, you have to ask, “What does the audience need from me?” They need you to reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and focus on the future. This chapter will walk you through the essentials of giving a graduation speech and then give you several example speeches as samples of key elements.

Gather the Details

This is the fun part. Sit down with friends and make a list of all the things that come to mind about the college experience. When brainstorming, write down everything you think of and don’t try to judge whether it should be included, just go with it.  There is an entire chapter on how to brainstorm here. 

Organizational Format

Most all student graduation speeches include the past, present, and future format.

Manuscript Format

Most student graduation speeches are in manuscript format. That helps you from getting overwhelmed at the moment and that also gives the school a chance to censor– I mean to approve of–your content. There is an entire chapter on writing a manuscript that you can refer to here. 

Pick a Theme

Many graduation speeches use a theme. Here are some of the most common graduation themes.

It can be helpful to pick a theme and connect a metaphor to your theme. There is an entire chapter on how to do that here. 

“There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to push you in another direction.” Oprah Winfrey, Harvard University Commencement Speech

Start Your Speech with an Introduction

Most introductions acknowledge the occasion, offer thanks, and lead into the main idea. Shutterfly suggests these as openings.

Use the Principles of Good Ceremonial Speaking

I have written a chapter on each component of ceremonial speaking and you can reference those you need:

Look for Stories that Celebrate Common Experiences

Notice how Jaclyn Marston reflects on specific classes and memories. (Watch starting at .54 seconds).

Watch how Lin Manuel Miranda references the familiar and the obscure in his address to the University of Pennsylvania (start watching at 1:12).

Use a Theme

Notice how she uses the theme–“What do you want to be” when you grow up and alters it to  “What do you want to do?” She opens with this and wraps back around to this same idea at the end.

Be Vulnerable

Notice how this speaker admits his shortcomings. We feel like he is honest and vulnerable so we hang on his everyword.

Headline Speaker Sample Speeches

Headline speakers are usually someone famous or notable. Speeches by those individuals almost always include stories and challenges. I have included several here. Pick two of them to analyze.

Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories. Steve Jobs

These highlights of Lou Holtz’s graduation speech is full of great challenges and life lessons.

Tim Minchin

“One: Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you. You never know where you might end up.

Two: Don’t seek happiness. Keep busy and aim to make someone else happy and you might find you get some as a side effect.

Three:  Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes nor truly blame others for their failures will humble you and make you more compassionate.

Four: Exercise. Take care of your body: you’re going to need it.

Five: Be hard on your opinions. Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privileges.

Six: Even if you’re not a teacher, be a teacher. Share your ideas. Don’t take for granted your education.

Seven: Define yourself by what you love. Be demonstrative and generous in your praise of those you admire. Send thank you cards and give standing ovations. Be pro stuff not just anti stuff.

Eight: Respect people with less power than you.

Nine: Finally, don’t rush. You don’t need to know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.”

As you can see, graduation speeches can be serious or lighthearted; they can be personal, motivational, and informative. The key thing is that the speech should be authentic. It should be as unique as the speaker.

Key Takeaways

Remember This!

Bonus Features

Jaclyn Marson describes the process of how she wrote her Graduation Speech.

Dunham, A. (2019). Valedictorian comes out as autistic during speech. [Video] YouTube. Standard YouTube License

Holtz, L. (2017). Lou Holtz’s inspirational speech. Commencement speech.[Video] YouTube. Standard YouTube License

Jobs, S. (2008). Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address. [Video] YouTube. Standard YouTube License.

Jostens, (n.d.).  Celebrate high school memories. Inspire your grad community.

Marson, J. (2020). How to write an amazing graduation speech–Jaclyn Marson podcast Ep 1. [Video] YouTube. Standard YouTube License.

Marston, J. (2016). Beautiful and moving graduation speech 2016. [Video] YouTube. Standard YouTube License.

Minchin, T. (2013). 9 life lessons-Time Minchin UWA Address. [Video] YouTube. Standard YouTube License.

Rosen, L. (2019). Leah Rosen: “The power of this place,” Duke University 2019 commencement student speaker. Standard YouTube License.

Shutterfly. (n.d) How to start a graduation speech.

Stewart, M.  (2020). Student speaker. Commencement 2020. University of Utah. [Video] YouTube.   h ttps:// Standard YouTube License.

University of Pennsylvania. (2016). Penn’s 2016 commencement ceremony- Commencement speaker Lin-Manuel Miranda. [Video] YouTube. Standard YouTube License.

Media Attributions

Advanced Public Speaking by Lynn Meade is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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how to write a valedictorian speech 2020

A graduation speech for the Class of 2021, by Aryan A.

how to write a valedictorian speech 2020

On May 1, 2021, EF Academy New York senior Aryan A. gave the following speech on behalf of the Class of 2021 at their graduation ceremony in New York.

Good morning respected teachers, administrators, parents and the amazing Class of 2021. Before I start, I would like to thank all the teachers for coming through for us this year and therefore I ask all the graduates to stand up and join me in giving all the teachers a round of applause.

Congratulations! We’ve done it, all the hard work has finally paid off and we’re all ready to take the next big step in life beyond high school. I was lucky enough to be chosen to speak today before all of you and reflect on our collective journey in this school, and if I were to think of one word to describe this journey, it would be: Unprecedented . 

Unprecedented is defined as never done or known before, and I’m sure all of you have heard this word countless times over the last year, being normalised into a word that correlates directly with COVID-19. But here, my intention is to connect this word with all of you ; you are unprecedented, you are a high school class that has done something never known before. You see, all of us have had a roller coaster ride; from week-long quarantines to distance learning, masked classes to countless pending Google Classroom assignments, brunch check-ins to Monster-fuelled all-nighters and numerous other things.

All of our crazy roller coaster rides have been unprecedented, never seen before in the history of education, let alone at EF Academy, because let’s be honest, every batch that graduates from EF Academy is a special one. Maybe not the underclassmen we so lovingly dislike.

Living in such unprecedented times made us cherish the small yet important aspects in life. Leaving the campus for field trips felt like freedom to us; and somehow breathing the polluted Manhattan air felt unusually fresh. Snow days felt like gifts from heaven since the term snow day apparently doesn’t exist in Dr. K’s dictionary. We love you Dr. K.

Countless Uber Eats orders were the closest glimpses to tasting the outside world, but we arguably valued such glimpses higher than our own IAs. Most importantly, we formed relationships with the people we love, people we care about, people that went on this crazy journey along with us, the journey without any exams, yet being stressed out over countless deadlines and mock exams. Unprecedented.

We have now learnt how to foster relationships through these tough times, quite literally finding the meaning behind the saying “through thick and thin” at a much younger age than other older folks, like the teachers here. Unprecedented. We were thrown into this thunderstorm of uncertainty and irregularities throughout the year, but we fought through it through ways we could’ve never imagined; be it through Vietnamese cooking sessions in the lounges or the Spanish and Russian parties with insanely loud music that we claimed to hate but never actually stopped tapping our feet or bopping our heads to. Unprecedented.

Learning from these experiences, I’m sure all of us will remember the families of friends we created amongst ourselves that looked out for each other at every step of the way. If there is one sentiment I want you to take away from this speech, it’s this: You are all capable of taking on any obstacle that may lie in your life in any country in the world at any time of the year. You have all faced a challenging high school experience that has never happened before, and you overcame it, made it worthwhile . . . something that I would like to call: Unprecedented.

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