Famous Person Speech Assignments


It’s amazing how even when the same books are read again and again, we never find them boring. Each time is like the first time – the same excitement and interest. But speeches are different and people look for innovation and creativity.

Persuasive speech argues or puts across a point to the audience. It is the art of expressing an opinion clearly and logically.

While presentation is very important when persuading, the magic of a persuasive speech is best experienced only when the topic elicits an interest and appeals to the heart of every member in the audience. And, that is what finally matters.

This is where the topic for the persuasive speech becomes important. We have heard too many speeches that talk about smoking and drinking. Here is a list of some out-of-the-box persuasive speech topics that will help you keep your audience alert and attentive.

List of 100 Persuasive Speech Topics

  1. Mandatory reporting in healthcare. Adverse events to be accurately reported.
  1. Food additives and unhealthiness.
  1. Overreaction to cholesterol.
  1. The dangers of asbestos removal.
  1. The glut of paper products.
  1. Meat consumption and health.
  1. The hazards of Ill-fitting shoes.
  1. Legalization of m*******a.
  1. Underground gasoline tanks leaks.
  1. Pension plans going broke.
  1. The dangers of disposable diapers.
  1. TV violence.
  1. Plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons (cosmetic surgery). Is it rising to a level that exceeds good sense?
  1. Is the Fast-Food Industry Accountable Legally for Obesity? (The McLawsuit)
  1. Intelligence depends more on the environment than genetic factors.
  1. Should there be stronger limits on immigration?
  1. Importance of safety harnesses.
  1. Juvenile sentence is right.
  1. Mandatory drug tests for students.
  1. Traditional books or eBooks?
  1. Organ donation after death should be encouraged.
  1. Freedom of press gone too far.
  1. Private space travel should not be encouraged.
  1. Teenage pregnancy affects the future of both the child and the mother.
  1. Special privileges for working women.
  1. Health insurance, a must for all citizens.
  1. Dangers of s*****d use.
  1. Financial education is important in today’s world.
  1. The use of surveillance cameras in public places, such as parking lots. Good idea or violation of privacy?
  1. The right to search students’ personal property, like lockers and backpacks as part of the war on drugs.
  1. Grocery store shelves filled with foods made with genetically modified ingredients without GMO labels. GMO labels are essential to help you make a decision.
  1. Designer children.
  1. Tell people to vote! Individual votes matter.
  1. Does Internet mean the death of newspapers?
  1. Reasons for increase in kidnapping by parents.
  1. How effective is Alcoholics Anonymous?
  1. Should death penalty be abolished?
  1. The importance of home schooling for mentally and physically enabled children.
  1. Does home-schooling result in children missing the social interaction and growth necessary at that age?
  1. Should surrogate motherhood be allowed?
  1. Make recycling mandatory to help the environment.
  1. Is nuclear power the answer to the energy crisis?
  1. Social networks and our young generation.
  1. Subliminal messages in movies and TV ads.
  1. Juvenile delinquents should be sentenced to bootcamp.
  1. Why breakfast is the most important meal of the day?
  1. The importance of newspapers in our daily life.
  1. Parents should not spank their children.
  1. Single parents should not be allowed to adopt children.
  1. Men and women speak a different language of love.
  1. The dangers of using a cell phone while driving.
  1. The importance of blood donation.
  1. How CMC (Computer Mediated Communication) affects the workplace.
  1. Why we will rely on robots.
  1. Weaving digital information into physical space. The ability to reach out into the computer and manipulate digital objects.
  1. Reducing poverty by fixing the living environment and housing.
  1. The possibility of cars sharing data with other cars to avoid accidents. Does that encroach on privacy?
  1. Texting undermines vocabulary and the mental effort that intelligent writing necessitates.
  1. Nonprofits rewarded for how little they spend – not for what they get done. We should start rewarding charities for their big goals and accomplishments even if it means bigger expenses.

With graduation season well underway, it’s important that recent grads start their journey into the real world with strong words of encouragement and advice. Here are 15 famous people who gave inspiring and rousing commencement speeches.

1. OPRAH WINFREY // STANFORD UNIVERSITY

In 2008, Oprah Winfrey gave a 28-minute commencement speech at Stanford University. She spoke about her early career as a local news anchor in Nashville and her personal and professional journey of failure, success, and finding happiness in life.

"The secret I've learned to getting ahead is being open to the lessons," Winfrey said. "It's being able to walk through life eager and open to self-improvement and that which is going to best help you evolve, because that's really why we're here—to evolve as human beings. I believe that there is a lesson in almost everything that you do and every experience. Getting the lesson is how you move forward, is how you enrich your spirit. And trust me; I know that inner wisdom is more precious than wealth. The more you spend it, the more you gain."

2. STEVE JOBS // STANFORD UNIVERSITY

In 2005, Steve Jobs was the commencement speaker at Stanford University. He spoke about his work, but emphasized his failures in life, including getting fired at Apple and starting NeXT Computer. Jobs believed that failing at life made you better at working and living it.

“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 said. “And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

3. JON STEWART // COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY

Twenty years after talk show host/comedian Jon Stewart graduated from the College of William and Mary, he returned as the commencement speaker for the graduating class of 2004. He spoke about his time at the Virginia college and offered up advice about the future.

“Love what you do. Get good at it. Competence is a rare commodity in this day and age. And let the chips fall where they may,” Stewart told the crowd. “College is something you complete. Life is something you experience. So don’t worry about your grade, or the results or success.”

4. STEPHEN COLBERT // WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY

Stephen Colbert gave the commencement speech to the Class of 2015 at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. It was about six months after he finished his nine-year run as host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report and the talk show host/comedian compared his transition to The Late Show on CBS to graduating from college and entering the real world.

“It’s time to say goodbye to the person we’ve become, who we’ve worked so hard to perfect, and to make some crucial decisions in becoming who we’re going to be,” Colbert told the graduating class. “For me, I’ll have to figure out how to do an hour-long show every night. And you at some point will have to sleep. I am told the Adderall wears off eventually.”

Colbert also began and ended his speech with references to Mad Max: Fury Road, by telling the graduates, “May you ride eternal, shiny, and chrome.”

5. KATIE COURIC // UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN—MADISON

Katie Couric delivered the commencement speech at the University of Wisconsin—Madison in 2015, where she urged the students to “work hard, and then work even harder ... There may be days when you’ll say to yourself, ‘I can’t. I literally can’t even.’ But you can! You can even!”

6. JOHN GREEN // KENYON COLLEGE

In 2000, author and YouTube star (and mental_floss contributor) John Green graduated from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. He recently returned to his alma mater to give the commencement speech for the graduating Class of 2016. During his speech, Green admitted that being an adult is terrible.

“All of it, actually—from the electricity bills to the job where your co-workers call themselves teammates even though this isn’t football for God’s sake—all these so-called horrors of adulthood emerge from living in a world where you are inextricably connected to other people to whom you must learn to listen,” Green said. “And that turns out to be great news. And if you can remember that conversations about grass length and the weather are really conversations about how we are going to get through, and how we are going to get through together, they become not just bearable but almost kind of transcendent.”

7. MAYA RUDOLPH // TULANE UNIVERSITY

In 2015, Maya Rudolph gave the commencement speech at Tulane University in New Orleans. The Saturday Night Live alum did her famous impressions of Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé, while giving the Class of 2015 some words of wisdom about creating your own life and destiny.

"During senior year, my father asked me what I planned to do after I graduated, and I told him 'I want to be on Saturday Night Live,'" she shared. "But until that moment, I never wanted to admit that being on SNL was my dream. I never wanted to admit that I was a thespian ... So if I must give any of you advice it would be say yes. Say yes, and create your own destiny."

8. JIM CARREY // MAHARISHI UNIVERSITY OF MANAGEMENT

In 2014, Jim Carrey surprised the graduating class at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa with a touching and emotional commencement speech about his father. He implored graduates to choose their own paths in life and to not settle out of practicality. Carrey also received an honorary doctorate for his achievements in comedy, art, acting, and philanthropy.

“The decisions we make in this moment are based in either love or fear,” Carrey told the students. “So many of us chose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect so we never ask the universe for it. I’m saying I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it. And if it doesn’t happen for you right away, it’s only because the universe is so busy fulfilling my order.”

9. MINDY KALING // HARVARD LAW SCHOOL

Comedy writer/actress Mindy Kaling gave the commencement speech to the Class of 2014 at Harvard Law School, where she joked about her “glamorous” lifestyle, and questioned why Harvard would even ask her to be the commencement speaker in the first place. Kaling also joked that celebrities are the worst people in the world to give advice to recent graduates.

“What advice could I give you guys?” said the star of The Mindy Project. “Celebrities give too much advice and people listen to it too much. Most of us have no education whatsoever. Who should be giving advice and the answer is people like you. You are better educated and you are going to go out into the world and people are going to listen to what you say, whether you are good or evil, and that probably scares you because some of you look really young.”

10. STEVE CARELL // PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

In 2012, Steve Carell spoke to Princeton University graduates during Class Day. His niece was in the audience as one of the Ivy League school’s graduates. He spoke about his attempt to enter law school, but ultimately not becoming a lawyer once he read the question “Why do you want to be an attorney?" on the law school application. Carell then ended his speech with a few tidbits about what to expect from the real world.

“I would like to leave you with a few random thoughts. Not advice per se, but some helpful hints,” Carell told the graduating class. “Show up on time. Because to be late is to show disrespect. Remember that the words 'regime' and 'regimen' are not interchangeable. Get a dog, because cats are lame. Only use a 'That's what she said' joke if you absolutely cannot resist. Never try to explain a 'That's what she said' joke to your parents. When out to eat, tip on the entire check. Do not subtract the tax first. And every once in a while, put something positive into the world. We have become so cynical these days. And by we I mean us. So do something kind, make someone laugh, and don't take yourself too seriously.”

11. J.K. ROWLING // HARVARD UNIVERSITY

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling gave the commencement speech at Harvard University in 2008. During her speech, Rowling talked about the value of imagination, failing in life to succeed, and friendship throughout school into the real world.

“The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life,” Rowling shared. “They are my children’s godparents, the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble, people who have been kind enough not to sue me when I took their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again.”

12. TOM HANKS // YALE UNIVERSITY

In 2011, Tom Hanks was the commencement speaker at Yale University. He told the graduates how they can make a deep impression on the world based on how they handle fear and if they inspire faith.

"Fear has become the commodity that sells as certainly as sex," Hanks said. "Fear is cheap, fear is easy, fear gets attention ... It's fast, it's gossip and it's just as glamorous, juicy and profitable. Fear twists facts into fictions that become indistinguishable from ignorance."

13. ELLEN DEGENERES // TULANE UNIVERSITY

Talk show host/comedian Ellen DeGeneres was the commencement speaker for Tulane University’s Class of 2009. At the ceremony, she was also awarded the Tulane University President's Medal. DeGeneres spoke about the importance of following your passions in life.

“Success is to live your life with integrity and to not give in to peer pressure to try to be something that you're not,” DeGeneres told the class. “Success is to be honest and to contribute in some way ... Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, never follow someone else's path unless you're in the woods and you're lost and you see a path then by all means you should follow that.”

14. CONAN O’BRIEN // DARTMOUTH COLLEGE

Late night talk show host Conan O’Brien addressed the Class of 2011 at Dartmouth College, along with “faculty, parents, relatives, undergraduates, and old people that just come to these things.” He spoke about his success and failures at NBC, while highlighting why it’s important to be disappointed in life: “Today I tell you that whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”

O’Brien ended his speech by saying, “At the end of my final program with NBC, just before signing off, I said ‘Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.’ Today … I have never believed that more.”

15. KERRY WASHINGTON // GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

In 2013, Scandal star Kerry Washington gave the commencement speech at George Washington University, from which she herself graduated in 1998. She received an honorary degree from her alma mater and gave some words of advice to the recent graduates, “You and you alone are the only person who can live the life that can write the story that you were meant to tell.”

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