A Rhetorical Analysis of Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech
Steve Jobs is successful even though he is not a college graduate, and has an unstable and unorthodox beginning to his life. He uses his background to play upon his rhetorical strategies in his Stanford commencement address. While speaking to the new Stanford graduates, Jobs uses love and loss as universal emotions common to all humans. He aims to convince the grads to use their intuition and follow their hearts to become happy. He also uses repetitive structures and speaks on adversity as a means for growth. Jobs relates emotional and structurally repetitive life experiences to encourage the Stanford graduates to pursue their passions.
The structure he uses is the simplest one of all. This is where you simply say "I have 4 points to cover today. Point 1 . . . Point 2 . . . Point 3 . . . etc" He simply says, "I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories" and then tells them 1, 2, 3: "The first story is about connecting the dots . . . The second story is about love and loss . . . The third story is about death . . ."
A Tricolon is a technique that takes advantage of the 'Rule of Threes' which is that for some reason the human brain seems to absorb and remember information more effectively when it is presented in threes. Jobs says:
1. "I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night"
2. ". . . every poster, every label on every drawer"
3. "I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great"
4. "It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle"
5. "I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would...