George Saunders' Commence­ment Address

This study guide will help you analyze the speech “Commencement Address” by George Saunders. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on main topics, speaker, audience, language, modes of persuasion, circumstances, and intention.

Presentation of the speech

Title: “Commencement Address”
Speaker: George Saunders
Where: Syracuse University in New York State

When: 11th of May, 2013 at The College of Arts and Sciences’ graduation ceremony

George Saunders (b. 1958) is an American author and a professor at Syracuse University. He has received several awards for his fiction over the years and, in 2017, he received the Man Booker Prize for his novel “Lincoln in the Bardo”. In his “Commencement Address” speech, he talked about the importance of kindness.

You can watch the speech here.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 

Choice of words

Although George Saunders acts as a formal speaker at The College of Arts and Sciences’ graduation ceremony, his choice of words often reflects a much more informal style.

First, note that Saunders uses several slang words and expressions, such as “old fart”, “pooping”, “corny”, “butts”, or “poop”. The use of these words and expressions give the speech an informal tone and also draws positive reactions from the members of the audience, who laugh and are evidently amused. Saunders’ word choice may also be connected with the fact that he is addressing a younger audience, who often speak in a less formal style, and he wants his message to feel relatable.

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George Saunders' Commencement Speech at Syracuse University

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