Rhetorical Analysis Of Steve Jobs 2005 Commencement Speech At Stanford

1458 Words6 Pages
Great Storytelling
Lu Jia

Delivered on a campus in California to an audience of a few thousands, yet it ended up inspiring tens of millions from both U.S. and worldwide; worshiped by Silicon Valley as the ultimate career talk, yet it embodied many aspects of life - chance, love, loss, and ultimately death. Short but smart, targeted yet universal, poignant and timeless – thus is Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address at Stanford. Some attribute its success to Jobs’ personal influence and charisma – they do add significant weight to the speech, undeniably. But close inspections from the lenses of rhetorical analysis allow us to appreciate this speech from a different perspective – in particular, how the speech was crafted into a fitting response to its rhetorical situation and how Jobs managed to strike a chord with his audience through the masterful use of logos, pathos and ethos, whether planned or not.

It is often meaningless to evaluate a speech without first considering its context and purposes. As Dr. Blizer pointed out, “a work of rhetoric is pragmatic; it comes into existence for the sake of something beyond itself; it functions ultimately to produce action or change in the world”.1 Jobs’ speech was no exception – its basic function as a commencement speech was ceremonial by nature. Compared to other ceremonial speeches such as a testimonial or an inaugural address, a commencement speech is less restricted in terms of topic. It is, however, bound by the occasion and

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