34 Tribute Speech: Celebrate the Occasion, the Person, or the Monument

Lynn Meade

Mother and child

A tribute is a type of celebratory speech that honors a person, a monument, a holiday, or an event.

 

Tribute to a Person

A tribute to a person typically includes one of these items:

  • Small descriptions so we can “see” the person in their element.
  • Stories of their deeds.
  • Stories of how the person affected others.
  • Funny or emotional moments.
  • The legacy that person is leaving.

Tribute to an Event or Occasion

Tributes to occasions can be any of the following:

  • Milestone Birthday, Retirement, Anniversary
  • Mother’s day, Father’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, D-Day
  • Race for the Cure, We Day
  • Family reunion, School reunion

Tributes to occasions typically include:

  • Emphasis on shared values
  • Appreciation for the people involved
  • Origin and evolution of the event
  • Stories of people related to the event
  • The larger context surrounding the event

Gather all the information

  • Who is the audience?
  • Are there other speakers?
  • What is the time limit?
  • Is this formal or informal?
  • Will there be a podium? microphone?

Brainstorming a Person

  • What life lessons did they teach you?
  • How are you different because of this person?
  • What are some of their favorite things?
  • What are their best qualities? Tell a story about that quality
  • What three words best describe this person?
  • What makes this person so great?
  • What is the funniest thing that you remember?
  • What is this person known for?
  • What are some sayings—one-liners—they are known for?
  • What is something simple that they do that demonstrates their character?
  • What is unique about her lifestyle or behavior?
  • What is a special gift that they gave you and why is it so special?
  • What does this person do for fun?
  • What does he do when he is stressed?
  • What adventure have you shared with this person?
  • What’s a story that everyone tells about this person?
  • What helpful advice has this person given you?
  • Every time you see a ______, you’ll think of ____ because ———
  • Look through a photo album—what one or two pictures tell about them ?
  • What smell do you associate with this person

 


Make Everyone Feel Included

Notice how this speaker invites all listeners to be part of the memorial.

I stand here today to pay tribute to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Bombing Memorial in Oklahoma City.

This memorial represents the honor and strength as well as all the pain of every person who remembers that historical day.

It has helped an immense number of people to cope with this national tragedy

It is a place of reflection, emotion,  and healing.

 

In this excerpt, Drew speaks to all those who are present at the Doolittle Raider reunion  (A reunion of men who in 1942 led the first attack after the bombing of Pearl Harbor)

Each of us in this room has our own memories of growing up with these men and the reasons why they are so special to us.  For these men, it is an everyday occurrence that someone thanks them for their service to their country and what they did 65 years ago.  So today is my pleasure to share with you the reason why these men are my heroes and why one of them impractically means the world to me.

I hope each of you will always remember the little things these men have done for you.  L.M. Heroux once said “heroism is not just pulling a child from a burning house or a driver from an icy river or a kitten from a tall tree.  Heroism is also holding the door for a frail elderly and driving courteously and cooperatively and listening with an attentive heart to a friend’s words.  Small daily acts of love are as heroic as big once-in-a-lifetime acts of rescue.”

In this tribute to his teacher, “the greatest swing pusher” Hosea Born reminds the group of a common thing, finding your name on the desk.

Walking into a new teacher’s classroom is terrifying. We have all been there. You remember. Finding your desk with your name on it. My name tag was an apple. Tribute to the best swing pusher.

 


Magnify the Small Things

Caitlyn Steiner wrote a tribute speech about the love her grandparent have for each other. Notice how she uses the little things to demonstrate love.

Love appreciates the smallest details the most. My grandpa still puts the toothpaste on both their toothbrushes every morning. My grandma still hangs a towel on the rack for my grandpa every day after he gets in the shower. And they still slow dance together every night in the living room before they go to bed.

In this example, Fawn Kurtzo gives a birthday tribute to her brother Buck. As you read this manuscript excerpt, I want to draw your attention to the fact that each line is a story for those who know him.

We are gathered here today to celebrate another year in the life of Buck.

Congratulations Buck? Who am I kidding, CONGRATULATIONS US!

We all survived another year of

10,000 questions why,

mental duels,

being outshot with bullets and arrows,

countless times of side-splitting laughs as he carried the life of the party //

begin terribly humiliated in a game of dominoes //

and just flat being outlasted by this kid!

 


Celebrate Don’t Inform

People in the audience may not know the person you are celebrating. Resist the temptation to give an informative speech about your person, that is the equivalent of reading someone’s Wikipedia biography–boring. Instead, pick a few things about them to celebrate.

In this tribute to his hometown dirt roads, Nathan Brock’s speech is a good example. He tells us the facts without sounding like an informative speech, I kept this sample in a manuscript format so you could see the emphasis and the rhythm. When you see /// it means to pause.

So, here’s to you, dirt roads

the defining feature of my hometown.

Here’s to you, dirt roads,  ///  the place of my upbringing in middle-of-nowhere America.

 

Pawnee, Oklahoma is a town with many dirt roads

A town with a population of 2,136//

It felt like less.

When Googling “living in Pawnee, Oklahoma” one can find a list of pros and cons

Pros include “cost-of-living”

Cons include “unattractive setting

That is where you came in, dirt roads.

 

 


Let Us See

Describe the situation or person in vivid detail so we can see the person in their element. Jeremy Stuthard gave a tribute to his Grandma and said they were “Two peas in a pod.” Notice how in one sentence you get a sense of grandma’s humor and personality. from only one line, “I remember when you dumped a whole bucket of water on me, to wake me up, just to have me help you with your TV.” In another example, Patience Beard describes cooking with her grandma, “Nana ALWAYS let me lick the spoon. We would make icing all from scratch she would turn that mixer on and it would never fail– icing would fly everywhere and her laugh …….would echo through the whole room.” In each example, you can “see” the interaction in your mind. The speaker didn’t tell you that his grandma was a trickster, he showed you that. Patience didn’t tell you her grandma cooked for her, she “showed” you that she did.

 


Teach Little Lesson in the Small Things

In tribute speeches, the little things are often the big things. What I mean by that is you can tell a story that appears to be a simple story but it is really about something deeper. In this speech, Brittany Brunson is telling the story about riding in her dad’s lap, but really it is a metaphor for their relationship. I kept this in manuscript form so you couldn’t get a feel for how she intended it to be heard.

I don’t remember much from the age of 7//

But I do remember getting to sit on my dad’s lap and driving down the alley.

I couldn’t reach the pedals // so my dad was in charge of those//

Although I thought I was in charge of the wheel//

My dad had ultimate control because if I ever got to close to the wall of the alleyway //

my dad would steer me right back to the center.

Ironically, I never got in big trouble growing up

// except for maybe prank calling the police one time…………. but anyways//

I never got in big trouble growing up because if I ever got close to that barrier of bad choices /// my dad //steered me right back to the center.

Although I thought I had control of the wheel of my life

ultimately my dad guided me on to the right path //

that led me to hold myself to a higher standard // and stand firm in my beliefs.


Tell Stories

Watch How Kevin Durant turns his most valuable player award acceptance speech into a tribute to his mother calling her the real MVP. Telling stories that highlight personal stories with the person you are giving tributing can be very powerful.

In this tribute speech to her father, she tells a story of how a Jewish man and a Muslim man can transcend boundaries and become friends.

 

Yamani, N. (2015). A Tribute to My Father. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdRCNuBcAWQ


 

 

Tribute Speech at We Day

 

We Day was an annual series of stadium-sized youth empowerment events organized by We Charity, a Canadian charity founded by brothers Marc and Craig Kielburger. WE Day events host tens of thousands of students and celebrate the effect they have made on local and global issues.

 

 

Sadhguru (2020). A Tribute to All Healthcare Workers

 

Notice how Tom Hanks makes specific references to parts from the Star Wars movie in his tribute to George Lucas. His references are things that everyone has in common.

American Film Institute. (2009). Tom Hanks Salutes George Lucas at the AFI Life Achievement Award.

 


Trump, D. (2018). President Donald Trump Full Speech: Honors 9/11 Victims at Shanksville Memorial. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02YA6Nz70MA


Tribute to Famous Person

When giving a tribute to a famous person that you do not know personally, it is important to resist giving a biographical speech. Instead, you should talk about how that person influenced you in some way. The story of them becomes the story of you and them.

 

In his tribute to Stan Leee, David Lester wrote,

One of my earliest experiences with his work, is through his comics. When my mom would take forever shopping in Walmart, I would fly to the magazine section find those comic books and my time——– just——— evaporated.

Later he mentions the relationship again

 The first Marvel movie I remember seeing saw was IRON MAN. I remember seeing Robert Downey Jr. beat up terrorists and change the way we see superheroes, not as just statues but as complex people like us.

In his conclusion, he brings it around to impact on all of us

BUT Do you wanna know who Stan thought the real superheroes were? It’s not the ones we talk about all the time. It’s not the ones that are played by Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, and Chris Hemsworth. NO!  It’s us,  the fans. We were the heroes all along. Looking out for each other. Supporting people around us who needed it the most. Protecting others from harm.  Standing as examples for our community for what we can become. Doing more than the average man would do.  That one person can make a difference. That you don’t need a cape just to be a hero.  He brought us together. He did all of this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tribute to a Reunion by Drew

Today it is my honor to have been asked to speak at the Doolittle Raider of Reunion.  As many we all know on April 18th 1942, 80 brave men flew on the first ever joint mission of the Navy and Air Force Reserves to give the United States its first attack on Japanese main land after Pearl Harbor.  600 miles off the shore of Japanese mainland the USS Hornet was spotted by a fishing boat.  General Doolittle ordered the men to launch early causing the men not to have enough fuel to make it to unoccupied China as planned.  All, but one of the 16 planes either crashed landed or the crew bailed out.  Eight men were taken prisoners of war, but only four came home.  These four men endured 40 months of being malnourished and tortured.

Of those four men, I have the greatest honor of calling my great-grandfather.  For those who do not know these men on a personal level they are heroes for the actions taken on that day 65 years ago, but for those of us who have the honor on knowing these men personally they are heroes for so many other reason.

These men are our fathers, grandfathers and even great-grandfathers.

These men have been and will be apart of our lives in ways that go far beyond the Tokyo Raid.

These men are the crews that have made sure our families lives were on the right path.

 

Most of you know him as Lt. Col. Robert L Hite, but to me he is Bobby Hite. My great-grandfather is like the parachute he used to bail out of his plane that day.  He has guided our family through the years making sure we reached the ground safely. He has done everything from slipping me a few dollars for a college student to taking us to lunch ever Saturday.   As a child I can remember waiting on Saturdays for that special honk he had to inform us he was there.

 

I remember when my Uncle got married, I was so upset because I was going to ruin my perfect attendance record if I came to Fort Smith with my parents.  Bobby Hite hating to see me so upset told my parents that he and nanny would wait for me to get out of school on Friday and drive me up because that’s what would make me happy.

The times he gave his “driving lessons”, told stories of when he managed the Camden Hotel and of course waiting every Christmas morning for nanny and him to arrive before we could see what Santa had brought are all memories that mean the world to me and my two brothers.

Each of us in this room has our own memories of growing up with these men and reasons why they are so special to us.  For these men, it is an everyday occurrence that someone thanks them for their service to their country and what they did 65 years ago.  So today is my pleasure to share with you the reason why these men are my heroes and why one of them impractically means the world to me.

 

I hope each of you will always remember the little things these men have done for you.  L.M. Heroux once said “heroism is not just pulling a child from a burning house or a driver from an icy river or a kitten from a tall tree.  Heroism is also holding the door for a frail elderly and driving courteously and cooperatively and listening with an attentive heart to a friend’s words.  Small daily acts of love are as heroic as big once-in-a-lifetime acts of rescue.”

 

Key Takeaways

  • Remember This!
    • Spend a lot of time brainstorming, reflecting, researching, and talking to others before you begin to write.
    • Write in a manuscript format.
    • Structure your speech so your audience feels like they are part of something.
    • Celebrate the person’s accomplishments and don’t make it an informative speech about them.
    • Tells stories when possible.
    • Try incorporating colorful language: Simile, metaphor, antithesis, alliteration, parallel construction.
    • Consider using a theme that fits the person or the situation.

 

References

Durant, K. (2014). 2013-14 NBA Most Valuable player acceptance speech. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GTiCUPZ9kw&t=329s

Lester, D. Tribute to Stan Lee. University of Arkansas Advanced Public Speaking.

Waln, F. (2017). Inspirational Native American Grank Walkn tells his story at WE Day! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2SE-19WqS8 Standard YouTube License.

 

Media Attributions

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Advanced Public Speaking (BETA) by Lynn Meade is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book