Three Stories of Life: Rhetorical Analysis of Steve Jobs’ Commencement Speech

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Words: 1410 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Dec 3, 2020

Words: 1410|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Dec 3, 2020

Before the outbreak of the “iPhone” era, Steve Jobs assessed a commencement speech at Stanford University in California on June 12, 2005. His speech addresses three major stories regarding his life, connecting the dots, love, and loss, and death, to help influence the graduating class of 2005. His speech has long-lived an iconic pathway for his famous quote, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” From love to death, Jobs is able to recount his experiences and has the ability to logically, emotionally, and honorably express these journeys in his life.

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Steve Jobs was born on February 24, 1955, in San Francisco, California. Being put up for adoption by his biological parents, Jobs was adopted by a couple, Paul and Clara Jobs, who later influenced his interest in electronics. In Jobs’ early life, he attended Reed College in Oregon, but during his time there he realized that there was no value in it. He felt that way because of multiple reasons: he was wasting his parent’s savings since he chose a college that has high tuition, and he didn’t see how college was going to help him figure out what to do with his life. In 1976, after dropping out of college, Jobs met up with an old high school friend, Steve Wozniak, and started developing the Apple Computer in the Jobs' family home garage. Together, they were able to knowingly revolutionize the electronics industry with their entrepreneurial corporation. After conceiving this company, they went on to create multiple computers and a profit of $666.66 for each computer. They made an annual amount of $774,000, and eventually, with the release of the second computer three years later, the sales went up by 700 percent, making an annual amount of 139 million. After many new model releases in Apple, the sales weren’t enough to surpass competing companies, leaving appointed marketing expert, John Sculley believing that Jobs was hurting the company; therefore, putting Jobs in a lower position, which led to Jobs leaving Apple in 1985. Starting a new pathway was easy for Jobs, who quickly started companies NeXT Inc., which focused on hardware and software products, and Pixar, that went on to create the world’s first computer-animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animated studio in the world. In December of 1996, Apple bought NeXT and soon after, in July of 1997, Jobs goes back to work for Apple as interim CEO from 1997 to 2004. Jobs and Apple worked on rebuilding the company and coming out with different products. In 1991, Jobs married Laurene Powell and had three children: Reed, Erin, and Eve Jobs. For Steve Jobs, 2005 was a big year. Jobs started off his year by releasing Apples’ productivity suite iWork, the new Mac mini, and the iPod shuffle on January 11, 2005. Then later on June 6, 2005, Jobs announced that Apple was going to switch away from Motorola’s and started using intel processors in its future macs instead. Steve Jobs discovered he had a tumor in his pancreas and had a successful surgery to remove it; however, it later returned and its effects were deadly. Before his death, Jobs resigned from Apple giving all responsibility to one of his executives, Tim Cook in January of 2011. Sadly after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, Jobs died in his home in Palo Alto, California on October 5, 2011.

While the speech had more of an emotional reasoning behind it, there were some rational facts that were announced in the commencement address. As the story builds upon his personal experiences, the whole speech is hard evidence of his life, with the speech being a short autobiography of Steve Jobs, he mentions the most memorable stories of his life. Early in his life, Steve Jobs had the opportunity to attend college; however, he found that there was no value for him to participate in university and dropped out only six months later. Although Jobs deemed college invaluable, Jobs stated in his speech, “Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country.” Jobs took consideration of taking this calligraphy class for fascinating him. Jobs later applied his calligraphy skills, which he learned during his college days, for the production of the Apple Computer in the late 1970’s. “None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me.”

Towards the end of the speech, Jobs addresses the fact that he had pancreatic cancer, “About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas.” Jobs was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, after doctors found a tumor in his pancreas. “The doctors told me... that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months.” After his hopes of living were crushed by the doctors and a supposedly “type of cancer that is incurable,” Jobs later received a biopsy and the doctors were able to find out that he contained a rare type of cancer that was, in fact, curable with surgery. When reading the commencement address, Steve Jobs often brings up the credibility or authority of what he is mentioning to show that it is credible. Jobs himself is a very well known, respected, and successful entrepreneur. Jobs being such a success makes his speech credible. Not only is he an entrepreneur, but he is also an American business magnate, industrial designer, inventor, and media proprietor.

During the speech Jobs talks about his company Pixar and how successful it has become by saying this statement, “ Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer-animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world”. With this statement, Jobs demonstrates that Pixar is a successful, well known, credible company. This is an excellent example of ethos because Jobs uses the company's success in becoming the best animation studio to show it can be trusted.

During his speech, The Commencement Address, Steve Jobs states the number of employees Apple has and the amount it makes is this quote: “we worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $ 2 billion company with over 4,00 employees”( Jobs uses these statistics to show that Apple is this huge company that makes billions of dollars and has thousands of employees. These huge numbers often show people that a company is trustworthy and credible.

Steve Jobs’ speech heavily relies on emotional appeal to convey his lesson to the audience with the help of logical fallacies. The emotional appeal comes from the three stories that he presents during the speech.

In the second story where he is talking about when he got let go from Apple. He mentions in these sentences “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do” in these sentences he appealing to the emotion of love, the love for work. He is trying to teach this lesson using himself as an example, he mentions that when he got fired from Apple that the love he had for his work allowed him to restart. From here, he starts to say that the love for his work is what kept him going with his life and that’s what he is trying to present in the sentences. That is they find the work that they love, that they can overcome the challenges that life can throw at them.

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For example, in the speech where he was telling the last story where he was diagnosed with cancer, he says that this is where he learned a lesson, and it is the same lesson he is trying to teach with this sentence “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life” in this sentence he appeals to the emotion of fear using a logical fallacy, a scare tactic. His purpose was to make the students fear about time running out of time in order to make them not waste their time living a lie, to find what makes them happy and follow through on that.

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Three Stories Of Life: Rhetorical Analysis Of Steve Jobs’ Commencement Speech. (2020, December 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 24, 2024, from
“Three Stories Of Life: Rhetorical Analysis Of Steve Jobs’ Commencement Speech.” GradesFixer, 10 Dec. 2020,
Three Stories Of Life: Rhetorical Analysis Of Steve Jobs’ Commencement Speech. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Apr. 2024].
Three Stories Of Life: Rhetorical Analysis Of Steve Jobs’ Commencement Speech [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Dec 10 [cited 2024 Apr 24]. Available from:
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