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Analysis of Rhetorical Techniques in Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech

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Steve Jobs, one of the most well-known business leaders and the brain behind the majority of the technology we use today, was invited to the Graduation Ceremony of the University of Stanford. For many of those that do not recognize him, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of Pixar, NeXT and Apple. Steve Jobs not only invented the best phones in the world, but also think differently from other people. Unfortunately, he passed away of Pancreatic cancer.

On June 12, 2005, Steve Jobs gave out the speech “How to live before you die” in order to inspire and also encourage students to chase their dream without anyone stepping by. Using three different stories, he turns back the clock, indicating how tough life can be and how to transform setbacks into motivation. Unlike any other speakers, Steve Jobs masterly apply many rhetorical devices including visual simplicity, attorney and tons of rhetoric techniques. Throughout the speech, he successfully uses logos, ethos and pathos to uplift students to follow their heart and keep fighting for what they like to do. Steve Jobs knows that the audience he is speaking to is a group of talented, exploratory students, and most of them are still eager to find out what’s best for them. As a result, Jobs mentioned several stories about his ups and downs and how he manage to surpass others by believing in yourself. At that point, everyone is thinking about the failures and disappointments throughout their lives, hoping not to mess up in the future. Yet Steve Jobs not only support his audience with strong words, he actually brings together the entire unity and shows to them that always look up and have faith not matter how harsh the live can be.

In the beginning of the speech, Steve Jobs begins with the sentence “I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world” (Jobs). Then he states, “I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation” (Jobs). From these two sentences, we can see that Steve Jobs is trying to use pathos as a way to show his modesty. Therefore, this makes him and the audience feel connected for the rest of the speech. In fact, Jobs is also trying to persuade his audience to follow their passion even though things do not go well as planned. Following the introduction, Steve Jobs began to start his three lifetime stories. Each of them consists of simple and concise statements. The purpose is to let his audience understand and grab the main focus in the story more easily. Under these circumstances, Jobs effectively uses triads in many of his sentences. In fact, the idea has been characterized when he says “My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption”. We can see that Jobs is already talking about his devastating childhood.

The first story that Steve Jobs calls “Connecting the Dots” explains the adoption process he went through when he was younger. Steve Jobs explains how his biological mother wants him to be adopted by college graduate parents. He relentlessly convinced his mother that he would indeed attend college and graduate. However, he decided to drop out and take a calligraphy class which helped him to incorporate the first Mac that he ever made. After explaining his life from downpoint to success, he then goes back to humor by stating “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them”.

The second story that Steve Jobs calls “Lost and Love” explains how he got to do what he loved to do in his passion at such a young age. Despite Jobs didn’t understand how he got fired from a company he started, he later describes that it allowed him to enter the most creative time in his life in which he persist his faith and do what you believe is right. Jobs successfully uses imagery and metaphors while he exclaims, “I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley”. The words “public failure” discusses by Jobs shows compassion and distress toward his audience when he mentions the fact that he got kicked out by the company he owned. In addition, Steve Jobs concludes his speech with metaphors and repetitions in order to build up the atmosphere of his rhetorical speech. He keeps repeating the sentence “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

The third story that Steve Jobs calls “Death” explains his diagnosis of cancer. He discusses the hardships he went through not only himself but with his wife and kids. It motivated him to live every day to the fullest. Moreover, he compares the 2005 graduating class to the life cycle and tells them that they will have a limited life and also follow their heart. Through the story, Steve Jobs expertly uses pathos which creates a sense of sympathy and touching mood. He expresses, “About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer”.

Afterwards, he cogently uses ethos in part of his speech when the doctor told him that he won’t live much longer, yet Jobs was still trying to overcome the difficulties and feel positive. Steve Jobs uses succinct and short sentence structures to talk about his experiences in his life. He persuasively makes his audience to keep exploring interests by being truthful and straightforward.

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Analysis Of Rhetorical Techniques In Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech. (2020, December 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-rhetorical-techniques-in-steve-jobs-stanford-commencement-speech/
“Analysis Of Rhetorical Techniques In Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech.” GradesFixer, 10 Dec. 2020, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-rhetorical-techniques-in-steve-jobs-stanford-commencement-speech/
Analysis Of Rhetorical Techniques In Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-rhetorical-techniques-in-steve-jobs-stanford-commencement-speech/> [Accessed 28 Nov. 2021].
Analysis Of Rhetorical Techniques In Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Dec 10 [cited 2021 Nov 28]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-rhetorical-techniques-in-steve-jobs-stanford-commencement-speech/
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