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English Lit/Lang Anthology [Grad Speech] Cheat Sheet by

A Level English Lit/Lang [OCR Exam Board] Text: George Saunders' speech to graduates at Syracuse University. George Saunders is a prize winning American writer celebrated for his short stories. He is a longstanding professor at Syracuse University and delivered the convocation speech for the class of 2013. The speech touches on some of the moments in his life and larger themes (in his life and work).

George Saunders in 2018

Taken 5 years after this speech.

About this speech to graduates


Genre: Speech (aimed at graduates)
Register: Mixed
Audience: Graduates at Syracuse University
Mode: Spoken
Purpose: Give advise to graduates leaving the univer­sity.
Subject: Saunders discusses making mistakes and giving advise to people "with all of their best years ahead of them". He speaks about regrets, and reflects on the past, and highlights the importance of kindess.

Further reading



Colloquial language: "old fart" Creates humour as well as being an unders­tat­ement which makes him more approa­chable.

Parall­elism, contra­stive pair: "­(that would be me) and (that would be you)" brings a sense of liveliness and humour to the speech.

Humour through anecdotes, hyperbole, rhetorical question: "So: what do I regret? [...] I don't even regret that"

Noun phrase: "what I regret most in my life are failures of kindne­ss" centre of the speech and with the superl­ative it elevates the moral of his point

Syndetic listing of triads: "dogs and swing-­sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-ha­nging clouds and you know other people­" creates a sense of famili­arity for the audience as they would've experi­enced one or all of those things.

Metaphor: "in our hearts­" creates an emotive tone

Syntactic parall­elism, anaphora: "High kindness periods and low kindness period­s" the syntactic parall­elism stresses the anaphora "­goo­d" which is backed by examples to emphasise his point.

Colloquial language, idiom "we get our butts kicked by real life" creates humour

Engages the audience by refere­ncing someone they would know: "The great Syracuse poet Hayden Carrut­h"

Synthetic person­ali­sation: "­you­" comforts the audience as they enter the world of adulthood and can live their own lives to the fullest as they start the next chapter of their life

Repeti­tion: "­we" the inclusive pronoun allows the audience to feel included as well as unifying everyone.


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