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DeCarol Davis Commencement – Apply Figures of Speech to Improve Impact

By August 10, 2022October 23rd, 2023No Comments
us coast guard academy building, decarol davis gave her commencement address in 2008

While doing some research on figures of speech and story elements, I came across this speech from DeCarol Davis, for the 127th U.S. Coast Guard Academy commencement, in May of 2008. As she was the class valedictorian, she delivered the commencement. It is filled with tonnnnnsss of figures of speech and story elements, and some really excellent messages of inspiration and self-reflection.

Below you will find two versions of her speech. As you read the first version, directly below, see what figures of speech and story elements you can identify that DeCarol Davis’ uses from the list. Perhaps I missed one? Or you know of different figures of speech? The second version, has all of the figures of speech and story elements identified from DeCarol Davis’ commencement.

Read more examples of Figures of Speech and Story Elements in action.
Read about Figures of Speech, their definitions, how to best use, and examples.

FIGURES OF SPEECH & STORY ELEMENTS TO FIND

Where clickable, we have blog posts with more details and examples on the Story Elements below.

Alliteration Recurrence of an initial consonant sound. For the purposes of creating your story, we consider any recurring consonant and vowel
Anadiplosis Reinforce and focus your ideas through the repetition of the last word of one line or clause to begin the next
Anaphora Repetition of the same word at the beginning of successive clauses or verses
Asyndeton Omission of conjunctions between words, phrases, or clauses
Auxesis Words or clauses placed in a climatic order
Diacope Repetition of a word or words in succeeding clauses, that are not adjacent and can be separated by sentences or paragraphs
Epanalepsis Words at the beginning of a clause or sentence are repeated at the end of that clause or sentence, with words in between
Epiphora Word or phrase repeated at the end of a successive phrase, clause, or sentence, two or more times
Metaphor Compare two things not alike and have something in common, to create deeper meaning
Personification Assign human qualities to a thing, an idea, or an abstract concept
Polysyndeton Reinforce your point with a series of intentional conjunctions, typically using three or more conjunctions of “and” or “or”
Questions You either ask yourself a question(s) or your audience a question(s) to reveal values, thinking, actions, etc.
Symbols A noun representing a big message that the knowing audience “gets” immediately
Sententia Quotation, proverb, saying, or expression of wisdom, from any person, including family members
Synecdoche A reference to either a part of something or the entirety of something (e.g., ABC’s represents the alphabet).
Others ???
(are there other Story Elements you discovered? Please contact us and share)

Our History is Now

DeCarol Davis, May 21, 2008

We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.

These were the words of Malcolm X.

Classmates. We are a family of volunteers — a family, whether we like it or not — here to preserve and to protect our nation and humanity.

For the Coast Guard, “by any means necessary” is not simply a willingness to kill, but more so a willingness to die.

This day marks our legacy. Let us make history.

I know I’m up here today because I’m a nerd, and I managed to be the best number, the best piece of paper for the past four years. But I’d like to think that it’s because I have a respect for humanity.

I know I’m also only 22 years old, so I’m not going to get up here and pretend to be some pseudo-righteous overachiever who thinks she knows all the answers. (Yeah.)

But I am here to tell you that I believe in a history and a now, that is ours. A history and a now, filled with a consciousness of the human condition, filled with a respect for human beings.

I need you to take this moment and see that I am black, see that I am a woman. I’m not going to tell you to close your eyes and imagine anything because we all to need to look this reality in the face. I need you to see that I am human just like you. No better, no worse. And if we can accept each others’ humanity, we can make history.

Humanity is our homeline — it’s our homeland. And classmates, we must remind our nation of the true definition and dynamic of homeland security. Protecting renewable energy is securing the homeland. Protecting the public from terrorists’ strike is securing the homeland. Treating all people, whether migrant or felon, with human decency and mercy, is securing the homeline. Saving lives is securing the homeland.

We must never forget our legacy. We must never forget the freedom and liberty that make us America. We have made a pledge to society that on this earth, to the best of our ability, by any means necessary, we will preserve and protect humanity.

Enemies of the Coast Guard do not all have faces, do not all breathe. Our enemy is any thing, concept, or form willing to hurt human beings. And a recent example of that enemy is Katrina. We fought back with principles of humanity — exploding justice, respect, and freedom. These principles give our nation a unique strength; and this is the greatest weapon of all.

I simply ask you to think. I ask you to look back on your moments of powerlessness. Look back to that moment where you had to get on your knees and scrub and sweep and mop and wax and buff and buff and buff and rebuff, and buff again, a floor that someone was going to walk on and probably scuff two minutes later. That feeling is what it is to be human.

Humble yourself and accept your humanity — and don’t deny it in others. When you lead your people, exude that understanding of a struggle and a fight — and fight for them, and be for them.

And in that fight, I ask you to remember this family that surrounds you here today. I ask you to remember the shipmate that carried your sea bag during sea trials. I ask you to remember the shipmate who earned a “C” tutoring your “B+.” I ask you to remember the shipmate who stayed by your side — late night, after night, after night, after night, knowing you were always more important than any late rack. Remember the shipmate who shined your shoes. The faculty, the coach, the company officer, who made you shine. The parent, the guardian, who always knew you could shine.

This family is the foundation of your humanity. These are the people you respect and who have taught you what it means to respect. These are the people who have helped you to understand everyone’s right, as a human being, to be on this earth.

Our history has not yet begun — and it won’t begin until all of us cross this stage.

Today, we become the class that we set out to be four years ago.

Today, we become officers.

Today, we become protectors of the United States’ Constitution.

Today, we must acknowledge that we are all human — and maintain that awareness by any means necessary.

Our history is now.

Shall we begin?

DeCarol Davis’ Commencement below has all of the figures of speech and story elements identified with superscripts. You’ll readily see just how many blue superscripts there are!

Story Elements are parts of stories that we at The Chief Storyteller®  have identified as key elements to telling great stories. Example Story Elements that DeCarol Davis used are Questions and Symbols.

After the commencement speech text, you will find a table with each figure of speech and story element described. Most of the figures of speech have clickable links if you would like to learn more about it.

FIGURES OF SPEECH & STORY ELEMENTS TO FIND

Alliteration Auxesis Metaphor Symbols
Anadiplosis Diacope Personification Sententia
Anaphora Epanalepsis Polysyndeton Synecdoche
Asyndeton Epiphora Questions ??? Other examples ???

Our History is Now

DeCarol Davis, May 21, 2008

We declare our right on this earth diacope 1, synecdoche 1 to be a human diacope 2 being epiphora 1, to be respected as a human diacope 2 being epiphora 1, to be given the rights of a human diacope 2 being epiphora 1 in this society, on this earth diacope 1, synecdoche 1, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary diacope 10, sententia 1.

These were the words of Malcolm X.

Classmates. We are a family diacope 3 of volunteers metaphor 1 — a family diacope 3, metaphor 2, whether we like it or not — here to preserve and to protect alliteration 1 our nation synecdoche 5, diacope 5 and humanity diacope 2.

For the Coast Guard, “by any means necessary” sententia 2 is not simply a willingness to epiphora 2 kill, but more so a willingness to epiphora 2 die.

This day marks our legacy. Let us make history personification 1, diacope 4.

I know I’m up here today because I’m a nerd, and I managed to be the best number, the best epanalepsis 2 piece of paper for the past four years. But I’d like to think that it’s because I have a respect for humanity personification 2, diacope 2.

I know I’m also only 22 years old, so I’m not going to get up here and pretend to be some pseudo-righteous overachiever who thinks she knows all the answers. (Yeah.)

But I am here to tell you that I believe in a history diacope 4 and a now, anadiplosis 1 that is ours. A history diacope 4 and a now, anadiplosis 1 filled with a consciousness of the human diacope 2 condition, filled with a anadiplosis 2 respect for human diacope 2 beings.

I need diacope 6 you to anaphora 2 take this moment and see that I am black, see that I am anadiplosis 3 a woman. I’m not going to tell you to close your eyes and imagine anything because we all to need diacope 6 to look this reality personification 3 in the face. I need diacope 6 you to anaphora 2 see that I am human diacope 2 — just like you. No better, no worse. And if we can accept each others’ humanity diacope 2, we can make history diacope 4.

Humanity diacope 2 is our homeline — it’s our homeland diacope 6, alliteration 3. And classmates, we must remind our nation synecdoche 5, diacope 5 of the true definition and dynamic of homeland diacope 6 security. Protecting anaphora 3 renewable energy is securing the homeland diacope 6, epiphora 3, simploce 1. Protecting anaphora 3 the public from terrorists’ strike is securing the homeland diacope 6, epiphora 3, simploce 2. Treating all people, whether migrant or felon, with human diacope 1 decency and mercy, is securing the homeline epiphora 3, simploce 3. Saving lives is securing the homeland diacope 6, epiphora 2.

We must never forget anaphora 4 our legacy. We must never forget anaphora 4 the freedom and liberty that make us America synecdoche 8, symbol 1. We have made a pledge to society that on this earth diacope 1, synecdoche 1, to the best of our ability, by any means necessary,asyndeton 1 we will preserve and protect alliteration 3 humanity diacope 2.

Enemies of the Coast Guard do not all anaphora 5 have faces, do not all anaphora 5 breathe asyndeton 2. Our enemy is any thing, concept, or form willing to hurt human diacope 2 beings. And a recent example of that enemy is Katrina personification 4. We fought back with principles of humanity diacope 2 — exploding justice, respect, and freedom personification 5. These principles anadiplosis 4 give our nation synecdoche 5, diacope 5 a unique strength; and this is the greatest weapon of all.

I simply ask you to anaphora 6 think. I ask you to anaphora 6 look back on your moments of powerlessness. Look back anadiplosis 5 to that moment where you had to get on your knees and scrub and sweep and mop and wax and buff and buff and buff and rebuff alliteration 5, and polysyndeton 1 buff again, a floor that someone was going to walk on and probably scuff two minutes later. That feeling is what it is to be human diacope 2.

Humble yourself and accept your humanity diacope 2 — and don’t deny it in others. When you lead your people, exude that understanding of a struggle and a fight diacope 7 — and fight diacope 7 for them diacope 8, synecdoche 6, and be for them diacope 8, synecdoche 6, epiphora 4.

And in that fight, diacope 7 I ask you to remember anaphora 7 this family diacope 3 that surrounds you here today. I ask you to remember anaphora 7 the shipmate that carried your sea bag during sea trials. I ask you to remember anaphora 7 the shipmate who earned a “C” tutoring your “B+.” I ask you to remember anaphora 7 the shipmate who stayed by your side — late night, after night, after night, after night, asyndeton 3 knowing you were always more important than any late rack. Remember anaphora 7 the shipmate who shined your shoes. The faculty, the coach, the company officer, who made you shine. The parent, the guardian, asyndeton 4 who always knew you could shine epiphora 5.

This family diacope 3 is the foundation of your humanity diacope 2. These are the people you respect diacope 9 and who have taught you what it means to respect diacope 9. These are the people who have helped you to understand everyone’s right, as a human diacope 2 being, to be on this earth diacope 1, synecdoche 1.

Our history diacope 4 has not yet begun — and it won’t begin until all of us cross this stage synecdoche 7.

Today, we become anaphora 8 the class that we set out to be four years ago.

Today, we become anaphora 8 officers.

Today, we become anaphora 8 protectors of the United States’ Constitution symbol 2.

Today, we anaphora 8 must acknowledge that we are all human diacope 2 — and maintain that awareness by any means necessary diacope 10.

Our history diacope 4 is now.

Shall we begin? question 1

FIGURES OF SPEECH & STORY ELEMENTS TO FIND

FOS / STORY ELEMENT DESCRIPTION / APPLICATION
Alliteration 1 preserve and to protect (twice)
Alliteration 2
Humanity is our homeline — it’s our homeland
Alliteration 3 definition and dynamic
Alliteration 4 buff and buff and buff and rebuff, and buff
Anadiplosis 1
a history and a now (ends a clause), then begins the next clause
Anadiplosis 2 filled with a (ends a clause), then begins the next clause
Anadiplosis 3 see that I am (ends a clause), then begins the next clause
Anadiplosis 4 These principles (ends a clause), then begins the next clause
Anadiplosis 5 Look back (ends a clause), then begins the next clause
Anaphora 1 Be the best
Anaphora 2 I need you to
Anaphora 3 Protecting
Anaphora 4 We must never forget
Anaphora 5 Do not all
Anaphora 6
I (simply) ask you to
Anaphora 7
I ask you to remember
Asyndeton 1 to the best of our ability, by any means necessary
Asyndeton 2 do not all have faces, do not all breathe
Asyndeton 3 late night, after night, after night, after night
Asyndeton 4
your shoes, the faculty, the coach, the company officer, who made you shine, the parent, the guardian
Auxesis
We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day,
Diacope 1
Earth
Diacope 2 Human / Human being / Humanity
Diacope 3 Family
Diacope 4 History
Diacope 5 Nation
Diacope 6
Need
Diacope 7
Fight
Diacope 8
Them
Diacope 9
Respect
Diacope 10
by any means necessary
Diacope 11
preserve and protect
Epanalepsis 1
These are the people you respect and who have taught you what it means to respect (the word respect)
Epanalepsis 2
be the best number, the best
Epiphora 1 a human being
Epiphora 2 a willingness to
Epiphora 3 is securing the homeland
Epiphora 4
for them
Epiphora 5
you (could) shine
Metaphor 1
Family of volunteers
Metaphor 2 Family
Personification 1 Let us make history
Personification 2 I have a respect for humanity
Personification 3
Reality
Personification 4
[Hurricane] Katrina
Personification 5
exploding justice, respect, and freedom
Polysyndeton 1
knees and scrub and sweep and mop and wax and buff and buff and buff and rebuff, and buff
Question 1 Shall we begin?
Sententia 1
Entire quote from Malcoml X
Sententia 2
by any means necessary
Simploce 1
Is the repetition of Anaphora 3 “protecting” and epiphora 3 “is securing the homeland”
Symbol 1 America – Represents everything about the United States
Symbol 2 Constitution – Represents the freedoms and rights we have as U.S. citizens
Synecdoche 1 Earth / Globe – Represents every person and the goodness of humanity
Synecdoche 2 Human / Humanity – Represents every person and the goodness we have in us
Synecdoche 3 Family – Represents a community for the Coast Guard Cadets and the Coast Guard
Synecdoche 4 History – Represents the impact the cadets will make as officers in the Coast Guard
Synecdoche 5
Nation – Represents the United States of America and its ideals
Synecdoche 6
Them – Represents all of the people the U.S. Coast Guard should protect
Synecdoche 7 Stage – Represents graduating and receiving one’s diploma, after four longgg years of study and application
Synecdoche 8 America – Same as Nation and Them

Photography Source:  United States Coast Guard
#chiefstoryteller #publicspeaking #figuresofspeech #language #rhetoric

Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in communication, especially business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialties are simplifying the complex and communicating when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after storytelling coach, global speaker, trainer, consultant, communication coach, and public speaking coach.