Inspirational Speechwriting 101

I’m a fraud.

A friend asked me to edit her inspirational speech addressed to graduating students of her alma mater. I injected it with so much positivity that even I doubted what the heck I was writing about.

An inner monologue ensued…

What was written: Don’t be afraid to take that step, to make that decision.

What I was really thinking: “Yeah, you can totally do this, kids. Or not. We’re all just trying to survive, you know.”


What was written: How will you know that you are on the right track? You have your parents, your siblings, your relatives, your teachers, your significant adults that you may consult.

What I was really thinking: “Wuuuuuut? Don’t base your decisions on the advice of a village’s council of elders! Adults make mistakes too. Do your own thing. You’re a responsible adult yourself. Backbone, please.”


What was written: Trust your instincts. Listen to your heart. It will not betray you.

What I was really thinking: “Duh. That’s not how it happens in real life.”


What was written: You are young and you have all the choices before you.

What I was really thinking: “So yeah, dear graduates, you’re screwed just like the rest of the working population. Enjoy!”

But what do you know, I went right ahead and added to the speech this gem of a quote (thank you, Google):

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman

I don’t know you, Mr. Thurman, but thank you. That hurt, but thanks. You see, I’m one of those zombies. So that makes me a lying speechwriter.

I really should follow this advice and practice what I preach. It’s time to ask:

What makes me come alive? And why am I not doing that?

I’m asking the same questions wide-eyed fresh graduates are asking. Ooookay. Way to go, maturity.

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