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Values and Messages Conveyed in College Commencement Speeches


Using content analysis, values and messages were extracted from 90 American university commencement speeches delivered between 1990 and 2007. Overall the most frequent messages in descending order were: Help Others, Do the Right Thing, Expand Your Horizons, Be True to Yourself, Never Give Up, Appreciate Diversity, Cherish Special Others, and Seek Balance. Two messages were delivered more often at women’s colleges than at coeducational universities, and more often by female speakers than male speakers. These were: Be True to Yourself and Cherish Special Others. Discussion focuses on these messages in light of contemporary American societal values and sex role expectations.

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Correspondence to Richard T. Kinnier.

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This study is based on the doctoral dissertation of the first author.

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Partch, J.J., Kinnier, R.T. Values and Messages Conveyed in College Commencement Speeches. Curr Psychol 30, 81–92 (2011).

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  • Values
  • Content analysis
  • College commencement addresses