Department of Communication

Commemorative Speaking

What is a Commemorative Speech?

Commemorative speeches are sometimes known as "ceremonial" or "epideictic" speeches. At the most basic level, commemorative speeches pay tribute or praise a person, an institution, an event, idea, or place. Their focus is on VALUES. All societies hold certain values central to human existence: beauty, loyalty, wisdom, kindness, tradition, success, innocence, experience, and courage, for example. The commemorative speech will celebrate these values. Types of commemorative speeches include the eulogy, the speech of nomination, the speech of goodwill, the wedding toast, and the award acceptance speech.

Please note that the commemorative speech is not just informative. Thus, a speaker would not just give a biography of Ghandi, but rather would celebrate who he was, why he was worthy of praise, and encourage the audience to celebrate those values.

Commemorative Speaking and the Future

Often, the inspiring commemorative speech goes beyond celebrating past or present accomplishments to give the audience hope for the future. For example, in 1986, when Ronald Reagan gave his now famous eulogy for the Challenger astronauts, he not only praised Christa MacAuliffe and the deceased astronauts, he gave the people of the United States a message of hope for the future of the space program—that it would not die with this mission, but would continue to thrive. Consider how the speaker can link past, present, and future in a commemorative speech.

As you may have guessed, language becomes an essential part of effective commemorative speeches. Using stories, illustrations, and figurative language helps the audience to share your experience.

Note that it is difficult to pay tribute to trivial topics. Therefore, a commemorative speech on, say, “tailgating parties” would not be appropriate. This speech is about what is most important to society --honor, trust, gentleness, etc.