Commencement Speech

Public Speaking: Who Did It Better: Michelle or Denzel?


GraduatesWhat would you say if you were asked to give a commencement address? You don't have to be famous to give a speech to graduating seniors. Last month, my sister, a retired Air Force officer, was asked to give a commencement speech to military nurses. This week I coached a Senior Vice-President on her speech to her alma mater. And now, Michelle Obama and Denzel Washington, no strangers to public speaking, delivered commencement speeches. Michelle spoke to Spelman College. Denzel addressed the students of  Dillard University. They took very different approaches. Michelle, a polished public speaker, focused on the problem. She warned students of the prejudice and obstacles they would encounter and talked about her struggles.

Denzel's focus was more aspirational. He talked about his journey from obscurity to fame reminding students of the ultimate source of their power.

Public speaking is a leadership skill. As a leader, which approach would you take to motivate, inspire, and influence? A commencement speech is delivered to future leaders to share lessons learned and a path toward success.

Who did it better? Michelle or Denzel?