Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech

Only once have I seen Steve speak without the usual bombast, adornments, and distracting sleights of hand. It happened during his commencement speech at Stanford University. For the first time we see a glimpse of the man behind his own myth. It’s the most popular commencement speech on YouTube. It even beats Oprah’s speech made at the same university three years later.  With over three-and-a-half million hits, the only speeches more popular than Steve's are Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream”, Obama’s “A more perfect union”, and Hitler’s 1933 victory rant. All three promote ideals that were never realised.
Business Week Journalist Carmine Gallo is author of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. It's the most popular book about Steve on the market. Its target market is ambitious executives who want to be Steve. There are many of them out there if book sales are an indication. Carmine writes with a misty eye, "Jobs has followed his heart his whole life. Follow yours and captivate your audience". How lovely. He claims the Stanford speech is “classic Steve Jobs”.[1] It is not. This speech is the most popular footage of Steve on YouTube precisely because it is the opposite of “classic Steve Jobs”.
This time there were no props, no signature black sweater, and no over-rehearsed script.  In fact, he read the whole thing from pages piled in front of him. Normally he looks fearlessly into the eyes of his audience, his palms open, showing them he is unafraid. He paces back and forth owning the stage. At Stanford, however, it was easier for Steve to share his private thoughts while standing still behind a podium covered in notes. He describes feelings we only hear vaguely mentioned during the occasional breakthrough interview with New York Times or Playboy. He tells three stories. He shares the smaller details about his feeling of failure and his need to say sorry. He exposes the finer details about the fears and desires of his parents. He lays bare his intimate relationship with death. Steve does all of this without the typical smoke and mirrors outlined in Carmine’s book. His hands are locked on both sides of the podium for support. He never once presses his palms together to appear godlike as he often does at Macworld events. For the first time we see a human being , not just a business man.


[1] Gallo, C. (2009) The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience. New York: McGraw-Hill.

No comments:

Post a comment