5 Tips For Writing A Memorable High School Valedictorian Speech

Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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Some might assume that earning the highest grades to become the valedictorian in your high school graduating class was tough. But anyone who has made it that far will tell you: writing a memorable valedictorian speech is 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. Begin with a Goal

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. For inspiration, see the winners in our NSHSS Virtual Valedictorian Speeches, there you will find a recurring idea or central theme cementing each speech.

Examples of themes suited for high school graduation include:

  •   People at school that inspired you
  •   Significant changes between freshman year and now
  •   Tips for moving forward after graduation

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


2. Make it Everybody

As valedictorian, you are there to represent the entire graduating class, not just your own experience. Be sure not to 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. Using your chosen theme, provide the captive audience with memories and insights that their family and friends are eager to hear. That will guarantee your valedictorian speech achieves stellar status.

3. Hit the Highlights

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. With the right theme in mind, and a list full of memories you’ve gleaned, you’ll know the best anecdotes and stories that will resonate with everyone. In addition, you can include global events of importance that occurred during your high school years. Just remember to focus on the positives you all experienced together. 


4. Humor Speaks Volumes

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 bits and pieces for the remainder. The best kind of joke to charm your listeners is self-deprecating humor, such as something that you (the valedictorian) failed at in high school. Or asking the audience if your hair looks good from the back row. Even a funny memory about a quirky teacher or 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 ties back to your theme and leaves everyone motivated. This circular approach will help round out your speech as a whole. 

 Examples of quotes suited for high school graduation include:

  •   "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." - C. S. Lewis
  •   "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." - John Dewey
  •   "There are no regrets in life. Just lessons." - Jennifer Aniston


In the end, there is no perfect valedictorian speech, they are all different in their own unique way. Find a speech that best suits the way you want to send off your fellow classmates into their next adventure. But, when in doubt, 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. It might help to imagine yourself twenty years from now watching your valedictorian speech on YouTube. Will you regret anything you've written? Maybe, you’ll chuckle to yourself. Maybe you’ll cry. And maybe, just maybe, you too will be left feeling inspired by the young, wise voice calling out to from your past.