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Adelola Ajayi

Professor Witte

ENGL 101A

25 September 2017

Rhetorical Analysis of Steve Jobs Commencement Speech

Steve Jobs, Chief Executive Officer of Apple, NeXT and Pixar Animation Studios,

delivers a commencement speech at Stanford University, one of the most selective universities in

the country. Jobs, a successful entrepreneur and a college dropout, attended Reed college for six

months until he discovered college was not for him and later dropped out. Jobs never graduated

from a university, but has found himself years later delivering the commencement speech, the

closest he has been to graduation. This speech which was amongst one of his most memorable,

was given as encouragement to the graduates of Stanford University. Jobs encourages these

graduates by telling his life experiences and how these experiences benefited his life. It is

important for the recent graduates to listen to persuasive words of encouragement before they

officially step into the ways of the world. Jobs effectively persuades the audience to follow their

own ambitions and goals by appealing to their emotions, resorting to logic, acknowledging the

kairotic moment, and establishing credibility through his own personal experiences.

Jobs, a college dropout, followed his own path and became a successful entrepreneur.

As a young baby Jobs was adopted by a family who did not attend college; however, this family

sends him to college, to pursue an education. Jobs attends Reeds College for about six months

until he realized that he could not see the value in college. He drops out and decides to drop in

for about eighteen months where he registers to take a calligraphy class and other classes that

interested him. As a result of his interests in calligraphy, Jobs and his friend co-found Apple

company and used his knowledge of what he learned in calligraphy class to develop typography

for Macintosh and other Apple devices.


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First , Jobs establishes emotional appeal by describing his near to death experience with

cancer. To trigger more emotions, he informs the audience that he was diagnosed with cancer

and had a tumor on his pancreas, the doctors told him that he should make arrangements with his

family because his days are numbered. As a result, the audience will likely feel sympathy for

Jobs. He makes the point that everyone should live each day as if it were their last moment,

because he was able to beat the cancer. Jobs illustrates this idea when he states, if today were

the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?..whenever the answer

has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something(Jobs). Jobs

relating his own experience with cancer to the graduates, will likely allow them to learn from his

lesson; they understand the severity of death and the importance of living each day to the fullest.

In his speech, Jobs also establishes logic through his own personal experience in which

he Connects the Dots. In addition, Jobs appeals to logic by discussing how he went to

college and discovered that college has no value for him; as a result he dropped out to pursue

other interests. He states that 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). This experience shows that even though he dropped out and he was able to

create Macintosh based on following what he loved to do; the audience is able to discover the

importance for people to follow their goals even though they have to make drastic changes in

their lives and overcome adversity.

Jobs establishes credibility by telling the audience that he has taken a calligraphy class in

which he learned about serif and sans serif typefaces which later helped him to develop

Macintosh, this experience was effective in establishing credibility in regards to to following

your gut, which led Jobs to be extremely successful. Jobs states that you cant connect the dots
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looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots

will somehow connect in your future (Jobs). This was effective in establishing the fact that Jobs

took a risk and encourages the audience to take a risk because no one will ever know the

outcome, and Jobs experience exemplifies this which allows him to be credible.

Moreover, Jobs defends his argument through ethical appeal; he narrates to the audience

how he found what he loved to do but eventually lost it. The audience believes Jobs because he

was the Co-founder and CEO of Apple, where he was later fired. To illustrate how he lost what

he loved he states, I didnt see it then but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best

thing that could ever happened to me (Jobs). In addition, the discussion of how calligraphy led

Jobs to do what he loves led him to establish credibility, the CEO of Apple, who was fired from

his own company shows that he was able to continue to do what he loved at Pixar and NeXT. In

other words, Jobs convinces the graduates to do what they love because if they do what they

love, nothing can alter their passion. His story of being fired from Apple is effective because the

audience is able to see that even though he wasn't working for Apple he was still able to do what

he loved to do.

Finally, Jobs gives this speech at the time in which the students are graduating establishes

Kairos. The kairotic moment is essential, these graduates will be starting their lives essentially

and being new graduates, it is important that they gain information from Jobs three stories, and

how it is important to follow one's ambitions and do it before you die because each day is not

guaranteed. To illustrate this idea, Jobs states, I am honored to be with you today at your

commencement from one of the finest universities in the world (Jobs).

Overall, in this speech Jobs effectively uses appeals to the time, his own credibility, the

audience's emotions, and the logic behind his actions. These appeals strengthen his argument to
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the graduating class; to follow their dreams. Even though Jobs was a college dropout, he

effectively uses rhetorical appeals to persuade his audience. The graduates are now equipped

with advice, from one's firsthand experience in which they can apply to their own lives.
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Works Cited

Youve Got to Find What You Love, Jobs

Says.TextofSteveJobsCommencementAddress(2005). Stanford University, 14 June

2005. Web. 12 Oct. 2012. <http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-

061505.html>.