high school graduation ceremony

Your Guide To Writing The Perfect Valedictorian Speech (With Sample Speech)

So, you have managed to achieve the feat that’s probably the dream of most high school students: you’re the valedictorian. 

Congratulations, that is amazing.

You definitely deserve a pat on your back–maybe multiple ones. 

But, while this sounds like the perfect time to sit back and relax, it’s probably not. You still have one big task left to complete: delivering your valedictorian speech. 

But don’t worry. 

You managed to seize the highest marks in your class. Compared to that, delivering this speech should be a piece of cake. And even if it’s not–if you’re someone more comfortable with books than speaking in front of other people–don’t worry. We’ve got you. 

For delivering a memorable Valedictorian speech, keep in mind a few things like incorporating humor and storytelling, having a theme, getting other students’ insight & keeping your most important point for the end of your speech.  

We’ve delved into them deeper in the following sections. 

Tips To Keep In Mind While Writing Your Valedictorian Speech

writing a valedictorian speech

1. Talk About Things You’ve Learnt Outside The Classroom 

While classroom learning is something that’s common to most of the students in the audience–that is, all of you probably learned the same coursework–what’s different is the stuff that you learned OUTSIDE the classroom. 

Talk about your personal experiences. The valuable lessons that seemingly trivial incidents taught you, what you remember the most from time spent with friends, etc. Teach them something they haven’t learned before; something that doesn’t involve an unwieldy textbook. 

2. Make Sure To Incorporate Humor 

Don’t just step up on the stage and start talking about a bunch of motivational stuff. If you truly wish to motivate your peers and make them remember you, then you need to incorporate humor in your speech. 

That’s because humor is a universal way to connect with people & make good memories with them. Think about all the good moments in your life, and chances are, you’ll realize you were smiling in more than one of them. 

For Example: “Your families are extremely proud of you. You can’t imagine the sense of relief they are experiencing. This would be a most opportune time to ask for money.”

3. Tell Stories 

Stories are another excellent way of connecting with your peers. Especially if it’s a popular story that most people recognize or was maybe quite the rage at a time in your school–chances are, at a time like this, repeating it will work to evoke fonder memories and emotions in your audience. 

So, make sure to use stories in your speech. 

For Example: Have you ever been the new kid in school? Well, I have…

4. Have A Theme 

Themes are a great way to enhance the impact of your speech. That’s because they are a common point that your entire speech is organized towards anything that you say in your speech can inevitably be traced back to it. 

Pick a theme that can inspire your audience. For example: 

  • Why the best years of our life are not behind us
  • What high-school didn’t prepare you for
  • Why it’s okay to fail
  • Why not being the top of class is not a big deal
  • Why the small picture is more important than the big picture

5. Talk To Other Students 

Your valedictorian speech is not just a cornerstone in your own high-school life, but also a testament to the life and experiences of the other students in the audience. So, why not include them in the writing of your speech?

I’m not asking you to get another student to write your speech for you. Rather, what I’m suggesting is talking to other students, and getting insight into their own thoughts, experiences & emotions. 

You can use them or the common themes you hear to structure your speech, and even include a couple of incidents or other things into your speech. This will greatly increase the impact that you make. 

Check our article 11 Engaging Ways To Interact With The Audience to make your speech a wholesome and interactive experience for the audience. 

6. Keep It Short & Simple 

Remember that your speech is a part of a larger ceremony that’s taking place and that most people in the audience are unlikely to pay attention to an hour-long speech. 

So, make sure that your speech is short and simple. Stick to the main points. A general guideline would be to have your speech be anything between 5-15 minutes. You can confirm if you have a time limit with the principal. 

7. Keep Your Most Important Point For The End 

How you end your speech is just as important as the way you begin it. That’s because while your beginning will determine whether people pay attention to your speech–or doze off–the ending will determine the takeaway that people return with. 

Your speech should be organized in such a way that it leads up to the final point that you make, which should be your most important point. 

This is going to be the line that people will most likely remember for a long time, the main takeaway from your speech. It can be a quote, the summary of a story or memory that you’ve spoken before, a few words of wisdom, or even a quote. 

For more inspiration on how to end your speech, check out our article on 50 Speech Closing Lines (& How To Create Your Own) l The Ultimate Guide 

How To Start Your Valedictorian Speech 

Using anecdotes from high school in your speech

1. Start With An Anecdote 

As I mentioned before, stories and anecdotes are a must in any speech. And what better way to include them in your speech than have them right at the beginning? 

Stories will work to hook your audience right from the beginning and make it more likely that they will stick with you till the end. 

For Example: In Grade 11, one of my friends started the fire alarm…

2. Use A Prop 

Props are another great way to start off your speech. They are eye-catching, and if used correctly, can create an entire story for your audience. So you’re hitting two birds with one stone!

However, before using props, one thing to keep in mind is to make sure that they’re relevant to the topic at hand. Don’t just use a prop for the sake of using one. 

Examples of props:

  1. Your high-school yearbook
  2. A photograph
  3. A memoir from a popular school incident
  4. Your graduation cap
  5. A pet!
  6. Memorable food from cafeteria

3. Make Them Imagine 

Another great way to start off your speech is to make your audience imagine a scenario. By evoking the power of imagination, you will pique your audience’s mind and make it more likely that they will pay attention to you. 

You can make them imagine many scenarios. You could get them to picture the future, or even make them recall a particular incident from the past. 

For Example: Imagine you’re sitting in the classroom…

4. Sing A Song 

This is a different–and somewhat unconventional–way to start off your speech. Was there a song or piece of lyrics that were really popular back in high school? Maybe something that was viral with a lot of students. 

Well, now would be a great time to make them remember it. Not only will this evoke fond memories, but it might also make them join in with you, thus taking the interaction to another level. 

5. Tell A Joke 

Another great way to start off your speech is by telling a joke. As I mentioned, humor is an essential element for any speech or presentation. It can spice up a boring speech, and make a more difficult point easy to remember. 

Start off your speech with a joke. This can be done in the form of a normal punchline format, or you could mix up different elements by telling a funny story or using your prop as a joke. 

For Example: I was good at math, once they decided to mix the alphabet into it. 

For more information on how to open your speech, check out our article on 50 Speech Opening Lines (& How To Create Your Own) l The Ultimate Guide. 

How Long Should The Speech Be? 

As mentioned above, you need to remember that you’re not giving an isolated speech. Neither is the speech the only important component of the entire event. 

Rather, your speech is part of a bigger ceremony that is going to be likely many times longer than it. 

So, it’s important to make sure that you don’t dawdle on for too long. Not only will this make most of the students in the audience more impatient, but longer speeches generally tend to be less intirguing and harder to retain. 

That’s why it’s important to keep your speech short. Preferably somewhere between 5-15 minutes. 

This will give you ample time to cover your most important details, while also making sure that your fellow students and teachers don’t doze off from boredom. 

Sample Valedictorian Speech

high school valedictorian speech

You’re probably wondering why I’m smiling like an idiot right now–and why I have been the entire way on the stage. Well, that’s because as I prepare to deliver my final speech on this stage, I can’t stop thinking about my first time up here.

When I first came to high-school, I was a shy kid whose worst fear was speaking in front of a big crowd of people. That’s because I have always been very imaginative, you see. But instead of using my imagination for writing stories as I now do, I used to use it to imagine the worst possible stories and scenarios in my head.

And so when I somehow let my English teacher convince me to take part in a debate competition during my freshman year, most of my energy was focused on all the things that could go wrong during my speech rather than the speech itself.

You know, like, me stumbling and falling on my face as I climbed all those big steps to the stage. Or me forgetting my speech in the middle. Or me bursting into tears from all the nerves and pressure–which is exactly what happened.

Yep, ALL OF IT.

Not only did I fall falt on my face the moment I stepped on the stage, but I also proceeded to tick off the other two items on the list–all within the span of two minutes.

I was so embarrased that I swore to my mother I would NEVER in my life take another step inside this high-school. My mom indulged me for one day, and then sent me packing straight to school counselor’s office the next day.

You’re probably wondering why I’m recounting what was probably the most embarrasing moment of my life on the best moment of my life. Well, that’s because, while at that moment it certainly felt that way, now I know that I’m not alone.

Over the course of these four years, every single one of you has probably felt at least once as embarrased as I felt on that day.

This speech is for all of you who’ve ever felt so humiliated that they felt like crawling under a giant rock and never showing your face to the other people sitting around you again.

And yet, WE DID IT.

The fact that we’re sitting in this room today is proof that we did.

Despite the embarrasement or fear or regret or failure, we showed up. Maybe we didn’t show up right away, but we did pick ourselves up and got things together eventually. And in the end, that’s what matters: not when you get yourself together, but the fact that you do.

As most of us in this room know from experience, being a senior is not all fun and games.

Applying to a bunch of colleges, juggling classes and assignments, making sure your grades don’t slip, trying to squeeze in as many last-time high-school experiences as you can in the little time you can find between all them…well, it’s not easy.

And yet we made it–all of us did.

Graduation marks the close of a big chapter in our lives. It has been a chapter filled with tears and laughter, pranks and solutions, good memories and bad memories, of last-minute studying for exams taking place the next day, running behind the school bus in a seemingly impossible attempt to catch it, of attempts to stifle laughter in the middle of exams, and much much more…

I can say with confidence that none of us sitting in this room today are the same person that we were on the day your story began. And all of us have witnessed each other bloom in this journey. And this is not the end–today, the doors to a new journey have been opened to us.

And as we prepare to take our first step in this new journey, I’d like to thank each and every single one of the people who have helped us pass the previous one. I would like to thank our principal, all of our teachers and staff, our parents, and each and every single one of you sitting in this room today.

Thank you. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been a small part of our journey or a big one, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been in every single chapter of this book or only a paragraph–it wouldn’t have been the same without you.

And I would like you to thank yourself as well.

Thank yourself for having the courage to stand up after you fall, and to have the strength to show up day after day.

Thank yourself for showing up despite the terrible food–if you can call it that–served in the cafeteria every single day.

Give yourself a pat on the back.

You deserve it.

Valedictorian Speech Examples

1. The King’s Academy Class Of 2019

Takeaway: This speech is a great example of how you can structure your entire valedictorian speech around a central theme to make it more memorable and intriguing. You can use it to select & organize your own speech.

2. La Plata High School Class of 2015

Takeaway: This speech is a great example of how you can effectively incorporate humor into your own speech. Use it to structure the flow of humor in your speech and to understand how to use humor without making it seem too forced.

3. West Hall High School Class Of 2010

Takeaway: This is an excellent speech to figure out how you can creatively use props in your own speech to make it a more interactive, visually appealing & memorable experience for your audience.

Conclusion

To conclude, writing a memorable Valedictorian speech isn’t as daunting of a task as it sounds. For delivering a memorable Valedictorian speech, keep in mind a few things like incorporating humor and storytelling, having a theme, getting other students’ insight & keeping your most important point for the end of your speech.  

Hrideep Barot is the founder and chief writer at Frantically Speaking, a portal to help people learn everything about public speaking. The purpose of franticallyspeaking.com is to showcase the lessons that he has learned (and still learning) from his numerous stage experiences and mentors over all these years.