Ellen DeGeneres Graduation Speech Tulane University 2009


  • Things happen in life with purpose
  • Sometimes you pass through tragic incidents and you start losing courage to fight back. If steps taken properly at that time, you may find it giving a new meaning to your life.
  • Believe in your abilities and give your thoughts the strength of your ability.
  • Secrets often make you to live in fear. Living honestly, helps you enjoy life more.
  • Don’t always live thinking about other’s opinion, if your vision is different it doesn’t mean you are wrong. If you are not doing anything wrong, don’t worry and live your life your way.
  • As you grow, you will find priorities in your life are changing, and so does the meaning of many words (for example: Success).
  • Be positive about the future and always be true to yourself


Ellen Lee DeGeneres was born in Metairie, Louisiana on January 26, 1958. Her parents divorced when she was sixteen years old. After graduating from Atlanta High School in 1976, Ellen attended the University of New Orleans as a communication major, but she dropped out after one semester. She held a wide variety of jobs until she turned to stand-up comedy.

Though DeGeneres's early forays into series television were not successful, she made TV history in April 1997 when her character, and DeGeneres herself personally, revealed that she was a lesbian. However, the show was canceled the following season due to declining ratings, after which DeGeneres returned to the stand-up circuit. In 2001, DeGeneres launched a new series, The Ellen Show (2001), on CBS, but it suffered from poor ratings and was canceled.

Redemption as a television artiste came in 2003, when DeGeneres's daytime talk show, Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show (2003) proved to be both a critical hit and a commercial success. Along with good ratings, the show has won unprecedented kudos from the industry, winning 15 Emmy Awards in its first three seasons on the air and becoming the first talk show in TV history to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show in its first three seasons.

DeGeneres has also made a name for herself as a host of awards shows. She hosted the Grammy Awards in 1996 and 1997, as well as the Primetime Emmy Awards in 2001 and 2005.

Purpose & Intended Audience

  • The purpose of Ellen's speech was to congratulate the graduating class of 2009 while inspiring them to follow their dreams and ensuring them that you might struggle in the beginning, but just keep pushing through it and the outcome will be great. Be true to yourself and do not let anyone define who you are. 
  • The intended audience was the Tulane University graduating class of 2009


"And I started this path of stand-up and it was successful and it was great but it was hard because I was trying to please everybody and I had this secret that I was keeping, that I was gay. And I thought if people found out they wouldn't like me, they wouldn't laugh at me."

  • Ellen started her career as a stand up comedian, she was scared that her being gay would ruin her career and no one would watch her anymore.

"I don't understand, there must be a purpose, and wouldn't it be so convenient if we could pick up the phone and call God, and ask these questions."

  • She has reached a point where she does not know what to do at all anymore, and she just wants to talk to god and ask him for help. This phone call with God describes her ethics and what she believes in.


"And I know a lot of you are concerned about your future, but there's not need to worry. The economy is booming, the job market is ide open, the planet is just fine. It's going to be great."

  • Ellen uses sarcasm towards to lighten up the mood. At this point in her speech the audience understands what point she is trying to make.

"I finally decided that I was living with so much shame, and so much fear, that I just couldn't live that way anymore and I decided to come out and make it creative"

  • Hiding the fact she was gay, had a big affect on her life. After realizing she couldn't live that way anymore, she decides to come out to the world.


"I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and the way I ended up on this path was from a very tragic event. I was maybe nineteen, and my girlfriend at the time was killed in a car accident.."

  • Ellen speaks to the audience about a tragic event that changed her life forever.

"For me, The most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity and not to give into peer pressure and to try to be something that you're not, to live your life as an honest and compassionate person, to contribute in some way"

  • Ellen gives the adudience advice for their future, from her past experiences.


I had- ex: " I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life" "I had no money, I had no heat, no air, I had a mattress on the floor.."

Success- ex: "when I was younger I thought success was something different." "And as you grow, you'll realize the definition of success changes."

Other Literary Devices

Humor- ex: "I really thought I knew who I was, I had no idea. Like for example, when I was your age, I was dating men. So what I'm saying is, when you're okde, most of you will be gay."

Sarcasm- ex: "And I know a lot of you are concerned about your future, but there no need to worry. The economy is booming, the job market is wide open, the planet is just fine."

  • Natalie Mseeh
  • Mueller: Period 5
  • February 17, 2017
  • Rhetorical Analysis Project

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