Over 1 million people in the United States are expected to receive their associate’s degree for the 2017-18 school year. Nearly 2 million will get their bachelor’s degree, and another million will collect postgraduate degrees. Many will attend commencement ceremonies, but few are likely to remember who spoke at their graduation years later.
In April, evangelical leaders in the United States were asked whether they remember who gave the commencement address at their college graduation. Only 28 percent remember who the speaker was, according to the monthly Evangelical Leaders Survey. Of those who remember who spoke at their commencement, only half can recall something the speaker said.
“Education is most about how to learn and not about remembering everything. Add commencement speeches to the learning experience list but rarely to the remembering everything list,” said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
Don Sweeting, president of Colorado Christian University, said that even though he doesn’t remember who spoke at his graduation, he remembers that it was a great day. He continued, “Do I remember the sermon from three Easters ago? No, don’t remember that either. But it was a great day, it added to the celebration, and I was glad to be there.”
Anderson added, “As a frequent commencement speaker, I know graduates are there to celebrate not to listen to a lecture. Keep it short, interesting and maybe memorable.”
Nicole Baker Fulgham, president of The Expectations Project, said, “I only remember the speaker, because it was the president of the United States. But sadly I don’t remember what he said!” Another leader recalled that his father was his commencement address speaker.
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.