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Steve Jobs Commencement Speech Analysis. Rhetorical Essay


Is it necessary to follow passions or reasons while choosing the career? What effects can losses and failures have on the person’s life? In spite of the complex character and deep ethical, philosophical, and psychological meanings hidden in these questions, they are answered completely in Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, Inc., is known as one of the world famous and successful entrepreneurs whose unique approaches to business and marketing provoked the great public’s interest. That is why, Jobs’ speech on the importance of finding the interesting and loved job drew the attention and gained the recognition of the graduates during the Commencement Day at Stanford University in 2005.

The goal of Steve Jobs’ speech is to persuade the graduates to find the jobs that they can truly love because of their passion for the definite activities. Thus, Jobs is successful in achieving his goal because of his exclusive approach to structuring the speech and to blending the rhetoric appeals in order to discuss well-known concepts and ideas of love, loss, and death in a unique form; that is why, it is appropriate to examine Jobs’ manipulation of methods of persuasion in detail.

In his speech, Jobs demonstrates the virtuous use of the rhetoric appeals in the development and presentation of one of the most persuasive commencement speeches in order to draw the students’ attention to the significant questions which can contribute to changing the person’s life.

The strategies used in developing the structure of the speech and the rhetorical strategies are closely connected. Jobs’ speech can be divided into five parts which are the introductory part to evoke the graduates’ interest regarding the topic discussed, the three life anecdotes, and the concluding part which restates and supports the author’s arguments presented in the main part of the speech.

It is important to note that each of three stories told by Jobs is also developed according to the definite structure pattern where the first sentences of the stories can be referred to the pathos, the personal experience can be discussed with references to the ethos, and the final parts of the stories are organized as the logical conclusions, using the logos.

The first reference to the ethos is observed in the introductory part when Jobs states, “I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation” (Jobs).

The uniqueness of Jobs’ approach is in the use of the reverse variant of the ethos as the rhetorical appeal because Jobs has no credibility to discuss the importance of the university education, but he has the credibility to discuss the points necessary for the professional success because of stating his position as the co-founder of Apple, Inc., NeXT, and Pixar.

The next three stories presented in the speech are used to develop Jobs’ argument about the necessity to do what a person loves and the importance of finding these things and activities. This argument is developed with references to the concluding or logical parts of the author’s stories which are also highly emotional in their character. Steve Jobs uses the pathos in the first sentences while telling his stories.

Thus, the discussion of the details of the child adoption in the first story, the reflection on the happiness of building the first company, and the mentioning of the main question in the life, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”, contribute to the audience’s emotional reaction because of describing the author’s own feelings and emotions (Jobs).

The credibility of Jobs’ considerations depends on the presentation of his own personal and life background and experiences to support his ideas. The use of the pathos in the speech is observed when the author concludes about the results of his experience: “If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do” (Jobs).

Discussing the near death experience, the author uses the sentence “About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer” which combines the ethos and pathos strategies (Jobs). Thus, Jobs can use more than one rhetorical appeal in a sentence.

Nevertheless, Jobs’ goal is to persuade the graduates to act and find the things that they love to do, and the focus on the logos is observed in the stories’ concluding sentences when Jobs provides the logical argument: “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” (Jobs). These concluding remarks are based on the logical rethinking of the evidences and facts presented as the examples from the author’s experience.

The repetition of such phrase as “Don’t settle” and the final phrase “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish” contributes to drawing the audience’s interest to the presented facts and ideas (Jobs). The effectiveness of using the rhetorical appeals depends on the author’s style and his use of repetitive structures and imperative sentences which sound persuasively.

In his speech, Steve Jobs achieves the main goals of the speech with focusing on the ethos, logos, and pathos, and with using the author’s unique style. Jobs presents his developed vision of the career and passions in life with references to the ideas of love and death and supports considerations with the autobiographical facts.

Works Cited

Jobs, Steve. . 2005. Web.

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Further Study: FAQ

📌 What is the purpose of Steve Jobs’s commencement speech?

The purpose of Steve Jobs’ speech was to convince students to look for such career fields and jobs so that they can do what they love and have passion for.

📌 What is the ethos in Steve Jobs’s commencement speech?

Steve Jobs’ ethos, i.e., the ethical appeal and credibility of the speaker, comes from his experience as a graduate who achieved undeniable success in his field. Besides, he could talk about death on the ground of the dangerous disease he faced.

📌 What is another commencement speech example?

Other notable examples of commencement speeches include David Foster Wallace’s address at Kenyon Collge (2005), J.K.Rowling’s speech at Harvard University (2008), and Jim Carrey’s graduation speech at Maharishi University of Management (2014).

📌 What was the tone of Steve Jobs speech at Stanford university?

The speech starts with a depressive tone. It creates a strong sympathy from the audience, especially when Steve Jobs recalls his first failures. Then it becomes uplifting and encouraging, as he talks about his success and motivates the public.

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IvyPanda. (2020, June 15). Steve Jobs Commencement Speech Analysis. Rhetorical Essay. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-rhetorical-analysis-of-steve-jobs-commencement-speech/

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IvyPanda. "Steve Jobs Commencement Speech Analysis. Rhetorical Essay." June 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-rhetorical-analysis-of-steve-jobs-commencement-speech/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Steve Jobs Commencement Speech Analysis. Rhetorical Essay." June 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-rhetorical-analysis-of-steve-jobs-commencement-speech/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Steve Jobs Commencement Speech Analysis. Rhetorical Essay'. 15 June.

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