Inspirational Stories for Graduation Speeches

Use personal stories that inspire you as you prepare your speech.

Finding an inspirational story for a graduation speech is probably not as insurmountable as you think. You can not only look to your own experiences, but those of friends, classmates and family members who were part of your support group during your educational journey. Inspirational stories add a “human element” to a graduation speech that engages the audience and draws them into your speech.

1 Volunteer Experience

Even brief volunteer service can leave an impression that you can convey.

Think about any volunteer work that you have done while you were pursuing your education. It may not have been regular work; perhaps you just worked for a charitable cause one weekend or even just a day. Draw on that experience, reflecting on the people who benefited from your service, the way it made you feel and your observations of other volunteers, including perhaps some who came to help grudgingly or others who do it on a regular basis. Finally, take this anecdote and tell your audience what you are going to do with it as you embark on a new stage in your life.

2 Learning Disability

You may have had to overcome a disability to get to the podium.

Overcoming disabilities is inherently inspirational, but often there are other not-so-well-known stories behind the more obvious veneer. Think beyond the disability itself – whether it is you with the disability or someone you know – to some of the more unknown and perhaps more challenging aspects of coping with it. For example, perhaps you were diagnosed with attention deficit disorder in elementary school but later had a secondary diagnosis of depression – which is not uncommon – that was both embarrassing and emotionally debilitating. You may never have envisioned at that time that you would be standing in front of your class and community, delivering a graduation speech.

3 Classmate with Challenges

You may find inspiration from your classmates' stories.

Perhaps you encountered one person, or more than one, who made you feel like you were pretty well off, even on your worst days. Without naming names, you may be able to relay how knowing this person offered you inspiration throughout your educational career. Perhaps you know someone who came from a history of abuse, was raising a child on her own, lost a family member during her school experience or was homeless. Do not say anything that obviously identifies anyone without procuring her permission.

4 A Mentor

Finding a mentor might be one of the most life-changing experiences for someone embarking on a new journey, whether it is in school, career or even a spiritual journey. If you were fortunate enough to have found a mentor while pursuing your education, relay your personal stories of what that meant to you and how it has helped guide your decisions both practically and perhaps morally. You can also incorporate how much confidence it has given you, and how, now that you understand its significance, you hope to become a mentor to someone as you gain experience and maturity.

Based in Central Texas, Karen S. Johnson is a marketing professional with more than 30 years' experience and specializes in business and equestrian topics. Her articles have appeared in several trade and business publications such as the Houston Chronicle. Johnson also co-authored a series of communications publications for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in speech from UT-Austin.