New Doctor's Commencement Speech

I've seen enough "had them in stitches" jokes about this speech, but it is quite funny. Bailey Sanders was chosen by her classmates at Penn State's College of Medicine to deliver this year's student commencement speech.

The success of Sanders' speech, in my opinion, rests on one factor: the writing. Poignant, colloquial at times, yet sprinkled with dramatic flourishes, the speech reads like a clever short story. The delivery and timing are nothing special, but Sanders is who she is-that's clear.

Penn State College of Medicine's
Penn State College of Medicine's

Regret is the theme of Sanders' speech, and she starts with her one regret, studying French: 

"My last day of Spanish class was in the second grade. Everyone was speaking Spanish but the cool kids, the dreamers, the middle schoolers who looked conjugation in the face and laughed. They took French. I wish I could go back to that seven-year-old me and push me off the swings. Tell me what a colossal idiot I was and what a horrible mistake I was making. I really only have one regret in this life and that is that after years of translating and conjugating, I'm pretty darn good at French. A language spoken by one country, the colonies that remain from their attempts of global domination, and half a dozen folks in Canada, the middle child of North America. And by absolutely no one in an American hospital. It may be the language of art and the language of love, but it is not the language of practicality in the American healthcare system. . . ."

Discussion Starters:

  • What makes Sanders' speech funny to you-or not? Describe your reaction.
  • In Chapter 11, we talk about humor in presentations as a risk. What risks should Sanders have considered in preparing her speech? On balance, the risks seem worth it. Why do you think this is the case, and how could it have turned out differently?