What is a Commemorative Speech?
Commemorative speeches are sometimes known as "ceremonial" or "epideictic" speeches. At the most basic level, commemorative speeches pay tribute or praise a person, an institution, an event, idea, or place. Their focus is on VALUES. All societies hold certain values central to human existence: beauty, loyalty, wisdom, kindness, tradition, success, innocence, experience, and courage, for example. The commemorative speech will celebrate these values. Types of commemorative speeches include the eulogy, the speech of nomination, the speech of goodwill, the wedding toast, and the award acceptance speech.
Please note that the commemorative speech is not just informative. Thus, a speaker would not just give a biography of Ghandi, but rather would celebrate who he was, why he was worthy of praise, and encourage the audience to celebrate those values.
Commemorative Speaking and the Future
Often, the inspiring commemorative speech goes beyond celebrating past or present accomplishments to give the audience hope for the future. For example, in 1986, when Ronald Reagan gave his now famous eulogy for the Challenger astronauts, he not only praised Christa MacAuliffe and the deceased astronauts, he gave the people of the United States a message of hope for the future of the space program—that it would not die with this mission, but would continue to thrive. Consider how the speaker can link past, present, and future in a commemorative speech.
As you may have guessed, language becomes an essential part of effective commemorative speeches. Using stories, illustrations, and figurative language helps the audience to share your experience.
Note that it is difficult to pay tribute to trivial topics. Therefore, a commemorative speech on, say, “tailgating parties” would not be appropriate. This speech is about what is most important to society --honor, trust, gentleness, etc.
If you are responsible for writing a commemorative speech for someone who has passed away or for a special event that commemorates a person, place, or event, you need to make sure you invest time and energy into writing something meaningful, respectful, and courteous. When making a tribute to someone or something with your words, you let others know you care, and you highlight why this person, place, or organization was and continues to be important in the world.
Brainstorming Topic Ideas
Before writing a commemorative speech, brainstorm some ideas for information that you could include in your speech.
- What memories, ideas, or information about this person would you want to share with a greater audience?
- How can you respectfully share the significance of this person with others?
- What stories would you want to hear when listening to this commemorative speech?
Your aim is to make the audience remember and to express yourself in order to motivate others to feel strongly as well. Sometimes these speeches are filled with emotion, and other times, they are filled with inspiration, hope, and information.
When writing, make sure that you have friends, family, and colleagues listen to your work and help you make your point very clear. The spoken word – especially when words are caught between tears of sadness – can be difficult to understand, so something on paper that makes sense might not be easy to understand aloud. You are going to need to rely on others for advice about changing phrasing, word order, and even speech patterns so that what you write becomes comprehensible. Keep this in mind as you formulate your speech on paper.
Think about the person, place, or other thing that is being praised through your speech.
- Can you balance tradition and formality with personal touches within your speech?
- Make sure that your words are respectful: Lots of people will hear this speech, and some might judge you based upon the stories you share and the speech elements you include.
- Write from the heart. It is obvious when you are speaking about something you care very little about.
If you are not inspired, talk to others who have been motivated and inspired by the thing you are commemorating, and see if you can draw ideas and inspiration from their passion.
Tips and Tricks for Writing Your Best Speech
Recognize that you will probably be speaking in front of an audience of different backgrounds – some people might be very familiar with the topics you discuss, while some might be listening to this information for the first time.
- You should seek clarity in your speech and should be clear with your words. For example, take the time to explain things instead of using jargon that might go over some people’s heads.
- Do not talk down to an audience of professionals. Achieve a tone that is reserved and respectful instead of boastful of your own knowledge.
Remember that this speech is not about you, nor is it in reality about the person being commemorated. The key is to speak for the audience. You are really there to help people deal with their feelings, let them express themselves, and to represent the collective voice.
Do not use this speech as a chance for self-promotion or to share your hubris. If you are worried about how people will perceive you – such that your boss will be in attendance, or someone else who can help you move ahead in life – remember that if you can give a selfless speech, this will speak more than threading personal pats-on-the-back throughout your speech.
When writing a commemorative speech, keep it simple, respectful, and honorable, and people will want to listen.