Alex Dunphy, Valedictorian
Jun 12 2011 3:21PM

Last week's episode of Modern Family had some nice observations about speechmaking. Haley tries to discourage her smarter sister Alex from giving a valedictorian speech laced with barbs for the popular kids.

She's just seizing her moment to tell the the truth, Alex says. No one wants to hear the truth, Haley tells her. "In order to give a good speech all you have to do is take a song, and say it."

Like: don't stop believing', or: get this party started.

But Alex intends to challenge them. She's going to make them think. Haley tries again. "No one wants to think. It's a graduation, a celebration of being done with thinking." She's deteremined to dissuade Alex from giving a speech that will make her a "social piranha."

Ultimately Alex sees her sister's point, and improvises. Her speech uses goodwill, makes perceptive observations about people's shortcomings and anxieties, and finds a rousing ending by saying the words to the songs.

It's not the Gettysburg address, but the audience loves it. The story has other points to make, of course, but there are some nice lessons about speeches in there, about empathy for the audience, and writing for the ear and not the eye. Her words connect with the audience because she acknowledges their anxieties.

And of course those song lyrics will work. They're written for the ear. They have rhythm. So should the words of our speeches.

Valedictorian, Modern Family,

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