Stay hungry, stay foolish

In this commencement speech given by Steve Jobs at Stanford, Jobs utilizes many rhetorical aspects to make this speech so inspiring and memorable. 

Steve Jobs, given his incredible success with Apple, Pixar, and much more, has ethos built into his name. However, when speaking to college students, this may not be such a good thing. If Jobs were to have gotten on stage and started talking about how smart and successful he was, the audience may have tuned out. However, Jobs starts by diminishing his ethos, and in a way, establishes it with the audience. He states that he never graduated college, which puts him lower than the students who are about to. By doing so, he becomes more relatable and the audience is more likely to engage with him. He also does this more throughout the speech, as he talks about how in the past he was poor, sleeping on the floor, and struggling, as a lot of college students do. He states that he was in the same shoes as many of these students, and he is now very successful, inspiring the audience. 

Something important that Jobs does at the beginning of his speech is outline it. He starts by saying he is going to tell three stories about his life, and that’s it. By stating what he is going to talk about, the speech becomes easier to follow along with, and more interesting, as the audience knows what is coming next. This is a very good rhetorical strategy, as outlining a speech at the beginning benefits the audience and helps them follow along and thus remember better. 

Throughout all three of his stories, Jobs juxtaposes good with bad. This is very effective, especially with his audience. For example, Jobs starts off by talking about how he dropped out of college. To a lot of people, this has negative connotations, as dropping out can be seen as giving up or quitting. Jobs puts a positive spin on it by saying that if he hadn’t have dropped out, he wouldn’t have accomplished anything he did later in life. This is very effective for an audience of graduating students, because they are bound to make a lot of mistakes, and Jobs’s message proves very relatable to his target audience, strengthening his speech. Finally, Jobs utilizes comedy in areas to lighten the mood, as his speech is more serious for the most part. 

Overall, Jobs does a very good job in this speech by appealing to his audience in regards to topic and theme, as well as outlining his speech and utilizing comedy. He also establishes ethos in a unique way by making jokes at his own expense, establishing a connection with the audience, allowing them to retain the messages of his speech better. 


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