The foremost aim of Steve Jobs’ speech How to Live before you Die, delivered before Stanford University’s graduates in 2005, was to motivate audience’s members to never cease exploring the full extent of their lives’ potential.
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As a person, who embodies the validity of an idea that a particular individual’s endowment with a strongly defined sense of ingenuity is the foremost precondition for him or her to be able to attain a social prominence, Jobs had a natural right to speak on the subject matter.
This, however, was not only the reason why, judging from students’ reactions to how Jobs proceeded with making an argumentative point, his speech turned out to be a complete success.
Another reason had to do with the fact that, in this particular speech, Jobs proved himself an utterly effective orator. In my paper, I will aim to substantiate the validity of this suggestion at length.
One of the reasons why, throughout the course of Jobs speech’s entirety, the audience’s members never ceased paying a close attention to what he was saying, is that at the very beginning of his speech, Jobs was able to establish a strong emotional contact with the audience by proving himself a humble, easy-going and humorous individual: “Truth be told, I never graduated from college, and this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation” (00.00.46).
This, of course, points out to Jobs’ awareness of what accounts for the one of main principles of increasing the perceptional appeal of publically delivered speeches.
While understanding perfectly well that the last thing he needed to do, in order to make sure that graduates would take his words seriously, was presenting himself as an authority figure of some sort, Jobs made a point in simply telling the audience three stories about his life (Connecting the Dots, Love and Loss, About Death), which are being self-illustrative of his argumentation’s legitimacy.
In its turn, this substantially contributed to increasing the extent of Jobs speech’s intellectual appeal, because by having adopted an intellectually honest attitude towards the audience, he proved his willingness to refer to graduates as to what their graduation had turned them into – intellectually advanced and socially responsible adults.
In the first part of his speech, Jobs told the story of how his life’s experiences started to make sense in the end, even though that when he was young, Jobs was often unable to find much of a meaning to these experiences. Hence, Jobs’ ‘connecting the dots’ allegory, which made the line of his argumentation, in this respect, much more illustrative.
Another reason why the earlier mentioned allegory increased the extent of Jobs speech’s appeal is that it correlated perfectly well with the audience members’ subconscious anxieties – people always expect their life-experiences to have meaning (speaker’s rhetorical appeal to pathos).
In the second part of his speech, Jobs provided more references to his biography as a proof that, very often a seemingly negative event in one’s life (in Jobs’ case, his experience of having been laid off by Apple Corporation, which he founded) proves to have strongly positive consequences, as it allows a concerned individual to assess the significance of its existence from a qualitatively new perspective (speaker’s rhetorical appeal to logos).
While addressing the audience, throughout this particular part of the speech, Jobs took advantage of its endowment with an acute sense of humor (for example, he implied that he can be considered a founder of Microsoft Corporation, as well, since the latter simply copied Apple’s software).
This allowed Jobs to win the audience even more – the essence of graduates’ reactions to Jobs’ jokes, illustrates the soundness of this suggestion.
In the concluding part of his speech, Jobs pointed out to the fact that, despite having been diagnosed with cancer, he never lost its will to live, which in turn prompted him to adopt a proper approach towards dealing with the situation, and consequently helped Jobs to have his cancer surgically removed, without any further complications.
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This, of course, strengthened the validity of Jobs’ argumentation even further. The reason for this is simple – given the fact that people are mortal; it should naturally prompt them to strive to live their lives to its fullest (speaker’s rhetorical appeal to ethos).
And, the key to ensuring the ‘fullness’ of one’s life, is his or her endowment with the sense of courageousness: “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition – they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary” (00.12.58).
Among the foremost features of Jobs’ speech, which contributed to increasing the extent of its rhetorical effectiveness, can be named:
Clarity – while addressing the audience, Jobs spoke clearly and loudly, which in turn helped graduates to comprehend the point that he was making.
Absence of distracting mannerisms – given the universally recognized authenticity of Jobs’ life-stories, mentioned in his speech, there was no need for him to talk about them in a particularly passionate manner, which would convince listeners in these stories’ ‘truthfulness’.
Confidence – while on the podium, Jobs never exhibited any signs of shyness or artificial pretentiousness, on his part. This, of course, helped him to strengthen the emotional contact with the audience.
Enthusiasm – the manner, in which Jobs was addressing the audience, points out to the fact that he did believe that his speech would indeed enlighten Stanford’s graduates in a variety of different ways. In its turn, this explains Jobs’ oratorical enthusiasm.
Interactiveness – the watching of Jobs speech’s video, leaves very few doubts as to the fact that, while exposing listeners to his line of argumentation, he never ceased being aware of the nature of graduates’ anticipatory anxieties, in regards to what he was talking about.
This is exactly the reason why, throughout the course of Jobs speech’s entirety, graduates continued to remain observably interested in listening to the speaker.
Unconventionalness – given the fact that in the first part of his speech, Jobs had made a point in suggesting that it was namely due to his decision to drop out of the college, that he was able to become enormously rich, this significantly increased the unconventional sounding of his line of reasoning.
And, as psychologists are well aware of, people are being naturally interested in hearing about what may account for the unconventional methods of tackling a particular life’s challenge.
I believe that the earlier provided analysis of how Jobs went about ensuring the rhetorical effectiveness of his 2005 speech, delivered to Stanford University’s students, is being fully consistent with this paper’s initial thesis.
Therefore, it will only be logical, on my part, to conclude this paper by suggesting that Steve Jobs should not only be considered the one of 20th century’s most prominent technological geniuses, but also an utterly effective orator.
How to Live before you Die. Steve Jobs. TED.Com. 2005 (2011). Web. https://www.ted.com/talks/steve_jobs_how_to_live_before_you_die?language=en