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Commemorative Essay Structure

If you are responsible for writing a commemorative speech for someone who has passed away or for a special event that commemorates a person, place, or event, you need to make sure you invest time and energy into writing something meaningful, respectful, and courteous. When making a tribute to someone or something with your words, you let others know you care, and you highlight why this person, place, or organization was and continues to be important in the world.

Brainstorming Topic Ideas

Before writing a commemorative speech, brainstorm some ideas for information that you could include in your speech.

  • What memories, ideas, or information about this person would you want to share with a greater audience?
  • How can you respectfully share the significance of this person with others?
  • What stories would you want to hear when listening to this commemorative speech? 

Your aim is to make the audience remember and to express yourself in order to motivate others to feel strongly as well. Sometimes these speeches are filled with emotion, and other times, they are filled with inspiration, hope, and information.

Commemorative Speechwriting

When writing, make sure that you have friends, family, and colleagues listen to your work and help you make your point very clear. The spoken word – especially when words are caught between tears of sadness – can be difficult to understand, so something on paper that makes sense might not be easy to understand aloud. You are going to need to rely on others for advice about changing phrasing, word order, and even speech patterns so that what you write becomes comprehensible. Keep this in mind as you formulate your speech on paper. 

Think about the person, place, or other thing that is being praised through your speech.

  • Can you balance tradition and formality with personal touches within your speech?
  • Make sure that your words are respectful: Lots of people will hear this speech, and some might judge you based upon the stories you share and the speech elements you include. 
  • Write from the heart. It is obvious when you are speaking about something you care very little about.

If you are not inspired, talk to others who have been motivated and inspired by the thing you are commemorating, and see if you can draw ideas and inspiration from their passion.  

Tips and Tricks for Writing Your Best Speech

Recognize that you will probably be speaking in front of an audience of different backgrounds – some people might be very familiar with the topics you discuss, while some might be listening to this information for the first time.

  • You should seek clarity in your speech and should be clear with your words. For example, take the time to explain things instead of using jargon that might go over some people’s heads.
  • Do not talk down to an audience of professionals. Achieve a tone that is reserved and respectful instead of boastful of your own knowledge. 

Remember that this speech is not about you, nor is it in reality about the person being commemorated. The key is to speak for the audience. You are really there to help people deal with their feelings, let them express themselves, and to represent the collective voice.  

Do not use this speech as a chance for self-promotion or to share your hubris. If you are worried about how people will perceive you – such that your boss will be in attendance, or someone else who can help you move ahead in life – remember that if you can give a selfless speech, this will speak more than threading personal pats-on-the-back throughout your speech.

When writing a commemorative speech, keep it simple, respectful, and honorable, and people will want to listen.

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Writing a Commemorative Speech

By YourDictionary

If you are responsible for writing a commemorative speech for someone who has passed away or for a special event that commemorates a person, place, or event, you need to make sure you invest time and energy into writing something meaningful, respectful, and courteous. When making a tribute to someone or something with your words, you let others know you care, and you highlight why this person, place, or organization was and continues to be important in the world.

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Commemorative speech topic helper

The ideal commemorative speech topic is one that inspires your audience. It enthralls, uplifts and whirls them through a journey of transformation.

By the time you tuck your cue cards back into your pocket at the end of the speech you give, you'll want to know you've left your audience enriched.


Choosing the best speech topic

But how do you choose exactly the right commemorative speech idea?


The process begins, not with your choice of subject but with:

  • understanding the purpose of the occasion
  • and the audience.

Once you've grasped that your topic selection will be so much easier and, because you've done the analysis, you'll be more likely to make the best decision.

Let's focus on those now.


What is the occasion?

Commemorative speeches do as their title suggests: commemorate. They celebrate, praise, or pay tribute to memories. These could be memories of a person, a group, an institution, a thing, an event or an idea.

The goal/purpose of the commemorative speech (or tribute speech) is always to unite the audience, to bring them together to collectively inspire, to re-dedicate and refocus their energies through honoring and remembering the past.

Examples of occasions calling for this type of speech are anniversaries, reunions, dedications, national and international remembrance days and funeral or memorial services.

To help yourself make the best choice of topic find out as much as you can about the event and the organization behind it.

Talk to the event managers about what they'd like you to focus on.

If it's a regular event, find out what past speakers have spoken about or ask folk who've been in the audience what has been successful and why.


Who is your audience?

Consider who is listening to you.

  • Why are they there?
  • What unites them?
  • What experiences have they shared?
  • What do they expect from you?
  • What do they hope for?
  • What do you know about their values or beliefs?
  • What are their concerns or worries?

And now that you know more about the speech context you're ready to start thinking about what your commemorative speech topic could be.

Because this type of speech is more about honoring the qualities enabling a person, organization or group to act in the way they did, the speech is not a recital of facts. Instead the facts, when they are recalled, are a backdrop used to demonstrate or illustrate the qualities being celebrated.

So in thinking about this, what themes or values will you focus on?
Use your knowledge of the event and the audience to guide your choice.


Commemorative speech topic themes

  • bravery
  • courage
  • dedication
  • loyalty
  • service
  • resourcefulness
  • creativity
  • originality
  • adaptability
  • openness
  • independence
  • perseverance
  • selflessness
  • kindness
  • cheerfulness
  • clarity
  • innovation
  • humor
  • modesty
  • respectfulness

Choosing material to fit your theme

Your next job is to select material to best illustrate the qualities you've chosen.

  1. Will your commemorative speech topic retell stories about past events and people already known to the audience?
  2. Will you research history to find inspiring events, stories or quotations to echo, reinforce and add to your speech?
  3. Will you use your own experiences?

The answer to those three questions is YES.

The most satisfying speech draws from all three elements and combines them eloquently.



Would you like to read a sample tribute speech?

This is a tribute speech for my Mother, Iris.
You're most welcome to use it as a springboard for the commemorative speech you have to write.

Or find out more about the special qualities of tribute speeches with links to well known examples.



In summary, a great commemorative speech topic:

  • is in tune with the audience's values
  • is sincere and relevant
  • uses the language of oratory (figurative language) to capture the hearts of its hearers
    The link will to take you to a page on 'How to write a poem' which includes a large section on figurative language.
  • includes story telling
  • invokes all the senses - sight, sound, touch, smell & taste
  • leaves the audience uplifted and inspired

If you're looking for examples of people, events or speeches to inspire your
commemorative speech topic choice you'll find a wonderful collection of resource links in the box below.


Resource links for tribute speeches