Steve Jobs' commencement speech

Before you watch

1  Answer the following questions.

Commencement speech

  1. What is a commencement speech? If you could invite any person to speak at your graduation ceremony, who would it be? Why?

Steve Jobs

  1. Who is Steve Jobs? Think of 2-3 things he is famous for.
  2. What do you think he spoke about in his commencement speech (2005)?

2  Make predictions about the content of the speech.

Steve Jobs tells 3 stories in his speech. As he himself puts it, these stories are about:

  • “connecting the dots”
  • “love and loss”
  • death.

Look at the quotes from each of the stories and make predictions about:

  • the facts from his life that he mentions in each of the stories
  • the ideas he seeks to get across.     

Connecting the dots

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.”

Love and loss

I’d been rejected, but I was still in love.”


Death is very likely the single best invention of life.

While watching

Part 1: A story about connecting the dots

3  Which of these statements about Steve Jobs are true? Guess!

  1. He was raised by adoptive parents.
  2. He got a university degree in computer science.
  3. In college, Jobs took a particular interest in calligraphy.
  4. He dropped out of college.

Now watch the first part of the speech and check your ideas.

4  Watch Part 1 of the speech again and answer the questions.

  1. Why did Steve Jobs have to go to college?
  2. Why did he decide to drop out? Why does he consider it to be one of the best decisions in his life?
  3. What difficulties did this decision entail?
  4. How did calligraphy help him in his career?
  5. What is the moral of the story? Try to formulate it in your own words.
  6. What metaphor does Jobs use in this part of the talk to express his key idea? What image is it based on?

Part 2: A story about love and loss

5  Are these statements about Steve Jobs true (T) or false (F)? Guess!

  1. He was once fired from his own company.
  2. «Apple» was the only company he started.
Now watch the second part of his speech and check your ideas.

6  Watch Part 2 of the speech and summarise the story Jobs tells in it. Don’t forget to mention:

  • his achievements
  • the hardships and failures he experienced
  • the lesson(s) he learnt from this experience.

Part 3: A story about death

7  Answer the question.

Why do you think Steve Jobs decided to talk to young people about death on their graduation day?

Watch the third part of the speech and check your ideas.

8  Watch the third part of the video again and answer the questions.

  1. How did Jobs’ experience of being diagnosed with cancer shape his idea of death and attitude to life?
  2. In this part of the talk, Jobs shares quite a few details which might seem unimportant (e.g. the time when he had a biopsy). Can you enumerate a few of them? What’s the point of mentioning all these seemingly insignificant details in a commencement speech?

Part 4: Ending

9  Steve Jobs ends his speech with an inspiring quote. Watch the talk up to the end and decide:

  1. whether the idea expressed in this quote is a totally new one
  2. or whether it is connected in any way to the three stories he tells in this speech. If there is a connection, how could you explain it?

After watching

10  Discuss the following questions.

  1. Did you like this talk? What did you like most about it?
  2. Think of the person you would invite to speak at your graduation ceremony. What stories do you think he/she could tell? What message might they want to get across?

This lesson was created by Tatiana Shustilova, an English teacher and materials writer.

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