The speech, in spite of its serious theme, “the world after college and fear”, was delivered in a rather easy style. Not only the language is easy, but also very funny. Two factors must have contributed to this.
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First, the target audience of the speech; the speech was mainly addressed to the college graduates. As young people, college students can fall prey to inattention sometimes. O’Brien manages to spice his speech with enough jokes to not just catch but also arrest every graduate’s attention, as well as the parents and all other persons present.
Second, O’Brien is a comedian, whenever a comedian rises to speak, people expect to laugh. Thus, O’Brien perfectly gives people what they expect. All the jokes and laughter aside, O’ Brien still manages to remain relevant to the occasion and to his main audience.
O’Brien addresses a number of relevant issues here. First, that college is not the only answer to success, the sarcastic allusions to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs are obviously not meant as a laughter to them. Instead, it is a challenge to the college graduates to be innovative and hard working.
In regard to Zuckerberg, for instance, he jokes that it is only at Harvard that one would need to invent an extensive social network just so that one can talk with the person next room. Here, O’Brien is putting emphasis on the creation of big things out of small things; that everything needs to be taken seriously.
Second, everything takes time to get; O’Brien mentions that he once, literally, sat where the students did. Everything, the message says, takes time to happen.
In his comic tone, with regards to unemployment, O’Brien partly blames joblessness on the persistence of old people to stay on jobs. In relation to this, he touches on the role of fine arts and philosophy in the contemporary society. But his joke must not be perceived as a low appreciation of these disciplines on his part.
Instead, he should be understood to be decrying reduced appreciation of these subjects in the contemporary world.
But all these fall under his main theme related to failure and fear; O’Brien advises the graduates not to fear failure. But he is also reminding them of the importance of the fear that whether one fears or not, failure and disappointments are part and parcel of life and cannot be escaped. As such, there’s no point in allowing fear to take over one’s life. Instead, there’s a need to confront that one fears.
The step towards confronting that fear, especially the fear of failure or disappointment, lies in constantly trying things out. He gives an example of just how he took the step to try things out. In the end, he discovered himself. He argues that trying things out, therefore, helps one to learn who he/she truly is.
This self-learning and realization may, at times, involve change in careers, but that change is not a bad thing. It is not the disappointment either, as it may just be what makes one a success in the end; thus, fearing that change is one of the things that one must confront.
O’Brien finalizes his speech with no novel encouragement, calling for hard work and kindness. But that ending summarizes his theme relevantly and accurately. In the end, this was a speech appropriate in context, audience, as well as purpose.