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Commencement Address at Wellesley College by Barbara Bush

Commencement Address at Wellesley College

by Barbara Bush

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11 Min.
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First Lady Barbara Bush imparted some words of wisdom in her well received Commencement Address at Wellesley College back in 1990. She emphasizes what's most important in life, provides some humorous anecdotes, and even quotes Ferris Bueller. In this brief 10 minute speech she receives thunderous applause.


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Master of emphasis
Reviewer yarfed
 November 12, 2009
There are different methods of making emphasis, such as stressing words, using intensifiers, emphasizing points, pausing, slowing down at certain moments, etc.
The first thing you pay attention to while listening to Mrs. Barbara Bush’s speech is a really stormy reaction of the audience – people laugh, applaud, and even silence seems to be full of attention. From the fist words of her speech, in the introduction Mrs. Barbara Bush uses such a way of emphasizing as pausing before words that she wants to mark out and thus to give them a special weight. Namely, noticeable pauses are observed to emphasize the guests' names (President Keohan, Mrs. Gorbachov, <...>), jokes, figurative expressions (“I was struck by both the natural beauty of your campus and the spirit of this place”; “Instead you got me — known for — the color of my hair!”). Also in the introduction she slows down on the emphasized words and stresses them.
She does so not only in the introduction, but throughout her whole speech. We can also find numerous examples of logical stress of the words, e.g. “…We are in transitional period now… [applause].” This phrase was repeated twice which is also one of the methods of emphasizing.
Repetition was used again later: “I knew coming to Wellesley would be fun, but I never dreamed it would be this much fun”; “And those who are different, those who do not fit the boxes and pigeonholes?”, “…to realize her dream, not society’s dream, her own dream”; “… talking about life … and life must…”, “you must hug your children, you must love your children”, “…not society’s dream… her personal dream”.
Mrs. B.Bush uses the question technique to accentuate the importance of some thoughts: “And those who are different, those who do not fit the boxes and pigeonholes?” – “And guess how I know?” – “Who knows?”.
The most often used technique is the usage of lexical intensifiers: “… book has a special resonance here”, “…three very special choices”; “This is true, but as important as your obligations as a doctor, lawyer or business leader will be, you are a human being first and those connections — with spouses, with children, with friends — are the most important investments you will ever make.” The trick of using power words can be proved by just counting how many times she uses the words “very”, “really”, “so much” and so on.
Besides, she uses strong forms of some verbs. She often says “you must” instead of “you should” and “you will” instead of “you might”. And she does that in the right place.
Finally, her voice. It is easy to notice her emotionalism while she says “but I never dreamed it would be this much fun!” One can feel her pride while she talks about “the spirit of this place”; one can see her artistism in her phrase “I am a mermaid”. And we realise her true care while she says: “You must read to your children, you must hug your children, you must love your children”. She knows how to use the intonation and voice volume.
So, as an experienced speaker Mrs. Barbara Bush uses many effective methods of emphasizing her ideas. Thus, Barbara Bush shows us that not only the content of your speech is important. It is also important to have skills of underlining the central ideas, making your audience feel your words, not only understand, manipulating with the attention and mood of those people who are listening to you.

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  • Published: 1990
  • LearnOutLoud.com Product ID: C007370
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