Throughout this speech, Steve Jobs successfully convinces the multicultural graduate population at the Stanford University Commencement to be preeminent in life and to pursue their passions by relaying three personal stories in a symmetrical structure that enables pathos to be clearly developed. In most of today’s arguments, facts are given to support a claim that is being made by someone; however, in Steve Jobs’ speech, he presents only his personal opinion and a little a bit of history as evidence. Even though this is all he has to offer to his audience, it creates rhetorical backing in his ethos. Through his stories, he creates a persona for himself.
He makes himself seem like a person who carried on even in his darkest of times and also someone who had overcome the many obstacles he faced and when things did not look so dandy. While trying to teach the audience that failure can sometimes be right, these are important pieces of the persona that he will establish throughout his speech. He is known as a successful man and role model to many people in the world. While he develops this persona, it allows him to make a connection with his audience on a level way beyond what he expects. Jobs breaks it down into stories, but what he really wants the audience to see is that his life went okay, and then things took a wrong turn, and then everything began to brighten up and get a lot better. Things were better than he ever would have imagined. Throughout his speech, the ups and downs are repeated patterns that he conveys in his stories and also in his life.
“I’ve never graduated from college. Truth be told; this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation,” is what Steve Jobs confesses immediately after he begins his speech to the graduating class of Stanford University. You would think that for a college graduation commencement, you would want someone who could relate educationally to the audience to send the graduates off, but on this day Steve Jobs was not that person. He did not fit the norm of being a college graduate. After he makes a statement on how he never actually graduated from college, he strongly compliments his audience, telling them how honored he is to be able to give this speech to “one of the finest universities in the world.”
He reels the audience in by telling them that he never graduated college which gives the graduates a sense of accomplishment. Jobs’ however, only completed six months of school at Reed’s College. Before this time, he was very unsure if furthering his college career would better his future in any way. But coincidentally, he decided to stick around and take classes that he thought were interesting for another eighteen months. Throughout his speech, he shares his difference experiences with the audience, and they all seem to share a very common theme. This theme being; the pursuit of happiness. Jobs effectively connects with the audience by saying this and using pathos. He communicates this message by using cause and effect analysis, contrast, and personal anecdotes.
In his first short story, Steve Jobs tells the audience “Again, you cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” In this story, Jobs does a magnificent job when using his rhetorical methods. He uses anaphora, pathos, and apostrophe by repeating the phrase “connecting the dots” throughout his story. He elicits pathos from the audience when he discusses his childhood and being adopted. This technique he uses gives the story a great meaning, and it also allows the audience to defer meaningful application. Even though his biological parents could not provide for him and raise him the way they wanted to on their own, they did however find a well-educated family that could provide for him, so that he would be an educated young man. He tells them how seventeen years later he makes the decision to go to college, then humorously says how he felt that he wasted all of his parents’ savings just to be in school for such a short time. His inclusion of such an emotional and impecunious background as a child born to a young woman out-of-wedlock, shows that even the most underprivileged students’ lives can reach success. He ends his story by giving the graduates a piece of advice that transitioned perfectly with the next story he tells. “So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something. Your gut, destiny, life, and karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
“I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the five-cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna Temple,” Jobs explains to his audience. Here he gets into the “lows of life” and how it wasn’t all ‘peaches and cream’ for him when he dropped out. The personal experiences in his speech help to create and develop his individuality. He uses pathos to get the audience to understand he had nowhere to sleep, barely had food and money, and only got one good meal a week. I am sure to the audience; it may have seemed somewhat strange and out of the ordinary for him to be mentioning such a stage in his life that would that would imply he lived the life of a vagabond. That is how Jobs would pull in the audience by telling such a touching story. It just shows that even the most successful people could come from the slums and become something just by living out their dreams.
As Jobs gets further along into his speech he starts off a sentence saying, “If I never dropped in on that single course in college, the ‘Mac’ would never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts….If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on that calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.” Jobs talks to his audience about how at this time in his life, he still really never had an idea about how the things he had learned would “factor” into his life. Here he uses logos as inductive reasoning. While being in the calligraphy classes, Jobs talks about the different types of fonts that he learned about and also how he learned the history behind them as well. He uses the “Rule of 3” as his rhetoric device here. “I learned about serif and sans-serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great” (Jobs).
With emotions and I’m sure a heavy heart, Jobs says to the graduates “I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me.” Here, Job evokes pathos and ethos from the audience. He uses pathos when explaining how he and a friend of his took this ‘garage project’ and transformed it into a two billion dollar company “….that now has 4,000 people working for it.” He appeals to the audiences emotions when he tells them about his fall from his very own business and the Apple Board of Director’s grace. After the release of the first Macintosh, he was fired from his company because his position as the CEO of Apple was terminated, and he tells how devastated he was by this. “The focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating” (Jobs).
He states his beliefs in such a blunt manner that everyone in attendance of this commencement is confident to understand and relate to what he went through and felt. “The heart knows where to go and what to do” is what he tells these Stanford graduates and the most important thing he needed his audience to do was to follow their intuition and their feelings. “..Turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me” (Jobs). In the next five years after he was fired from his company Apple, his creative thoughts began to conjure and he started two new companies; NeXT and Pixar. Pixar became one of the most world renowned animation studios. But he did not stop there, after creating Pixar he created the first animation movie ‘Toy Story.’ This movie is a widely known success amongst many ages and generations of children and adults today. Also during this time he met the love of his life, “…I fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife…”– “Laurene and I have a beautiful family together…” (Jobs). He yet again uses pathos with the audience to show how even though he was going through a bad time in his life, he still was able to find his true love, and I am sure by them finding each other, this pushed him to do greater things.
Ironically, Apple bought NeXT, and it is ‘the heart of Apple’s current renaissance.’ Steve Jobs ends this short story with yet another inspirational quote for his audience. He tells them “Sometimes life’s going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love.” His success shows that the adversity makes the students and himself better and stronger than anything that they will ever face. Jobs’ description of his journey after being fired makes him an example of hard work as a precursor to success. “My third story is about death.” The phrase is short, simple, elegant, and quite frankly to the point. It shows his form of this story. His short and simple way of speaking portrays honesty and builds the logos of his commencement. By making this simple statement to his audience “About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer……this was certainly a type of cancer that is incurable,” Jobs makes a personal and emotional connection with his audience. Seeing that there are possibly some audience members who have gone through the same thing as he or have experienced the same thing with someone else. Here, Jobs’ is using pathos to tap into the audience’s feelings of sympathy.
He then develops his ethos with the audience and then explains that he has faced adversity in the form of sickness as well as other things. He comes off as a strong man who has conquered his challenges. This was proof of his strength and what he endured. “Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” Jobs uses his near death experience story as a way to inform the Stanford graduates that life is too short. He uses pathos here as well when he is talking about the audience following their hearts. “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know how to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” Jobs is stating that the consequences of these many graduates not living to the best of their ability after graduation, are much greater than if they did when following their real passions. “Even people who want to go to heaven do not want to die in order to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share.” Here it shows Jobs’ philosophical take on death. Having experienced such a traumatic thing in his life it recreated his personal status on it. Being diagnosed with cancer and seeing his life change right before his eyes made him change the life around him.
He made the best of his time, and now he is telling the graduates to do the same thing. He uses very candidly and sagacious words to show his audience (the graduates) that eventually they will die so now is the time to ‘live it up and live it to the fullest’ with the time that they have left. The most important decision Jobs tells them they can make right now is to find whatever it is they love and to pursue it to the best of their ability whenever the time comes to do so. If the graduates follow their passions and do what their heart and mind lead them to do, their lives will be very sufficient and excellent in every way possible. By making these statements to his audience, he acquires warrant. Warrant is the rhetorical device that makes his speech such an advantageous one. The relationship he creates between his audience and himself is a parallel experience. Through his straightforward statements, words, and visible proof he encourages the audience of graduates that success is attainable when you follow your passions and desires. They have to live without regrets. “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish” (Jobs). Jobs’ defines his hardship when he relates to that quote. Here he yet again uses pathos of a childhood memory of a quote in a magazine to connect with his audience.
This is the last thing that Jobs wants to leave with the graduates as he comes to a close in his commencement speech. He explains to them about a magazine that he use to read as a child. As he describes it “When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the ‘bibles’ of my generation.” Jobs begins to tell them the meaning that this magazine and quote was to him, he explicitly tells them about the last issue they ever made and the impact it would stamp on him for the rest of his life. Here he gives them a mental visual of the last issue. He goes into detail about how the picture on the back of the magazine “had an early country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous” (Jobs). Beneath it read the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” He gives this sense of ethos when he describes this to them. Jobs masterfully directs his audience’s minds to always be curious and to stay more importantly humble, so they will follow their hearts and love the life that is ahead of them.
Steve Jobs’ Commencement Speech at Stanford University is considered a very effective speech because of his use of the rhetorical devices. He uses many of them such as pathos, ethos, logos, apostrophe, and many others. His use of rhetorical approaches is not the one and only thing that makes his speech one of the most successful ones. Jobs was able to relate successfully to the audience and was also able to relax them with his humor and laid-back grace and comments about his very own personal stories and life. By the end of the speech, Jobs connected very well with his audience, and they also had a better appreciation for who Steve Jobs was and who Steve Jobs was still becoming. Jobs’ use of structural repetition and his connection of emotional anecdotes encourages the audience (Stanford Graduates) to pursue their dreams and passions.
His methodology as an orator throughout the time he sets up his ethos, logos, and pathos of his advice are subtle. Jobs’ pathos adds to this heart-wrenching rhetoric. In addition, he also uses his three emotionally charged stories to show his high character and qualified eligibility to be giving the graduates advice about their lives and how they should never second guess anything that they do. The words he chooses are just elegant and simple and portray honesty, as well as intellectualism. But most importantly Jobs leaves these many graduates off with these short, simple and encouraging words. “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”
Jobs, Steve. “Commencement Address at Stanford University.” Graduation. Stanford University Auditorium, Palo Alto. 12 June 2005. Speech.
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