How I Prepared for a Commencement Speech in 25 Minutes

By | March 28, 2015

I attended the graduation of a family member who recently completed his 4-year degree from a university in Central Texas. The graduation was scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m., and I decided to drive up a bit earlier, which would allow me to get a good view to take pictures.

When I arrived at the facility, I ran into a colleague who worked at the university. He seemed a bit pre-occupied, which was normal because of the many duties assigned to him pertaining to the ceremony.

Our Chat

Me: Hey, Willie! It’s good to see you.

Willie: Jimmie! I heard from Sam (my nephew) that you were coming today. Glad that you could make it.

Me: I wanted to get a good seat, so I came early. It’s just 1 p.m., so I am here super-early. You look busy!

Willie: Yeah. Way too busy! I’m not sure why I’m always in charge of so much graduation-related stuff. I was supposed to have help from Martina, but her husband is ill, and she can’t make it.

Me: Is there anything I can do to help you?

Willie: Look … we are expecting the commencement speaker, and he was scheduled to arrive from Dallas at 12:45 p.m., but I haven’t seen him. Do you mind waiting near the front of the building for him? His name is Charlie.

Me: No problem. Let me go do that right now.

Willie: When he gets here. Please escort him to the stage area right through that door.

Me: You got it!

With my new orders, I went to the front of the building, and waited for about 10 minutes. At close to 1:15 p.m.there was no sign of Charlie. I waited another 5 minutes, and still no Charlie. I thought perhaps he snuck in through a side or back door. I went to Willie for additional guidance.

Me: Willie, I haven’t seen Charlie. Has he called you?

Willie: Let me check my phone. I have a voicemail, so let me see who called. It’s a phone number from the 214 area code, and that is Dallas, right?

Me: I think so.

Willie: Woah! He did call, and apparently his car stalled in Waco, and doesn’t think he will make it.

Me: What is your back-up plan?

Willie: I don’t think we have one. I know we need a commencement speaker.

Me: Why don’t you ask a dean or the president?

Willie: That just won’t look right. We need someone from outside the university to deliver a good message. How about you?

Me: You’re joking, right?

Willie: We really need you.

Me: Let me give it a try.

I had about 25 minutes to prepare for the commencement speech. I wrote six major points to cover, and used plenty of examples. We had more than 1,000 attendees, and the speech went fine. It wasn’t perfect, but I’m glad that I accepted the challenge.

Of course, the next time I would hope to get at least 24-hours notice.

P.S.: While I don’t smoke, someone gave me a cigar, and I decided to pretend! I think it calmed my nerves (see picture).

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