Learning from the Commencement Address

How different people, speaking to different contexts, shape the message to connect

high school students graduates tossing up hats over blue sky.

What can we learn from the commencement address?  The graduation speech has a basic purpose: to encourage and congratulate students on the day of their graduation.  These days everything is recorded, so it is a great time to observe the oral presentations of some of the best speakers and celebrities of our day.

3 Aspects of a Speech to look at as you watch

  1. POINT:  What is the message that they are communicating?
  • Point – What are they talking about?
  • Purpose – What do they want you to do with the information?


2.  PERSON:  Who is speaking?

  • The person is part of the message.
  • As they speak, are they the hero or are they encouraging the listeners with their story?  There is a difference.
  • What do they bring that others don’t?  Credibility, perspective, knowledge, inspiration?

3.  PEOPLE:  Where and to whom are they speaking?

  • Context matters.  Are they speaking at Harvard, Liberty, or the United States Military Academy?
  • How do the speakers understand the unique context in which they are speaking?

We can look to the 2016 presidential candidates for an example.  They have each given thousands of speeches and been taught by the best.  Donald Trump (at Liberty University) and Hilary Clinton (at Wellesley College) both gave commencement addresses this year.  Both speeches are just over 3o minutes and as you watch them, look for the POINT, PERSON, and PEOPLE.

Setting politics aside, if you want to see how to bring humor into the equation, Will Ferrell’s address at USC  will enlighten you.  Pay special attention to his musical conclusion meant to bring inspiration to the graduates.

Today I watched two excellent, yet very different speeches given from different ends of the spectrum.  Both were presented at prestigious institutions by men, who themselves, have greatly excelled in their respective fields.

The first, was given by the Secretary of Defense, Gen. James Mattis, at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

The second is given by the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, at Harvard University.

What did you learn from the speeches?


  • What was the POINT being communicated?
  • How did the PERSON add to our take away from the point they were making?
  • Did the message connect with the PEOPLE to whom they were speaking?

Based on what you learned, how will it influence you as you speak?

A Message of Peace at Christmas

Can you imagine peace this Christmas?  Imagine a time of where war would cease  so that Soldiers could honor the Prince of Peace.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

This is a message that needs to be heard today, as it was years ago.

A commercial came out this year, highlighting the true events of war from Christmas 100 years ago.  As you watch the ad and reflect on the story, remember to pray for our Soldiers and Families today.

Click here to see a video on the story behind the ad

What has been the favorite Christmas message you have heard or preached?

Our Chapel is using the principles of Advent Conspiracy this year, you will  find some resources (here)

Pray for our Soldiers who are often in the middle of conflict, that they will begin to know true Peace that comes from a baby born in a manger so long ago.

Merry Christmas!

The Funeral Message & a Few Resources

CH MooreA few weeks ago, I was featured in a news article about teaching on “The Funeral Message”.  The article entitled “Chaplain Trains Civilian Counterparts” can be found here.

What we say and how we say it matters.  As chaplains we must do our best to honor God, the service of those who have served, and care for those left behind.

For those of you who want to get better at funerals, below are some resources for you:

The first is a resource put together by one of my friends Ron Fisher.


  • Dignity with Brevity – A Concise Guide to Crafting Christian Funeral Services APR 2014

The Second is the Army Manual providing guidance for Funerals.

There is also a Digital Reference that is a great resource below is a link. (you may need CAC access to view)

There are many books and manuals written to help with funerals.

Do you have any favorites or go-to resources?

Leave a comment and let us know.


FREE I-BOOK download from Nancy Duarte: RESONATE

resonate_multimedia2-1024x575Free interactive I Book from Nancy Duarte.

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Learning these transformative principles in an immersive environment significantly helps your retention of how to:

Create your content in a story form
Understand the business case for story
Understand the Hero’s Journey — and apply it to your audience’s journey
Address an audience’s risk, resistance, and reward
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Create out-of-the-box concepts and perspectives
Embed contrast to create interest through tension and release
Construct clear turning points
Establish audience empathy
Explore the book: Resonate

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Chaplain Journal on Preaching

Chaplain_LogoThe Army professional journal Fall-Summer 2010,

entitled Strengthening Army Communities though Ministries of Sacred Speech

The Former Chief of Chaplains MG Doug Carver writes,

Chaplains are called upon to communicate various messages in multiple contexts. We speak in briefings, during training events, in moments of religious education, in worship, and even to open or close a Battle Update Brief. Whatever the moment, God gives us the privilege to speak for him into the hearts of hearers around our Army. From a different angle, the context of sacred communication is often in those moments when the chaplain becomes the courier of a divine message from God to the pressing needs of a Soldier’s soul. Given the plethora of spiritual needs in the souls of our Soldiers during this era of enduring conflict, it is imperative that we maintain awareness of the power of our words in sacred communications and of the impact they have, positively or negatively, in the lives of those Soldiers and on the character of our Army communities.

Check out this professional journal.  It is filled with great articles.  (Read it now)

  • What was you favorite article? Why?
  • What was most helpful to you?
  • Are there areas, topics  you would add to the discussion on Military Sacred Communications?

If you want more resources on preaching from the military, check out The Military Chaplains’ Review, Spring of 1992.

For older Chaplaincy publications browse,  The Chaplain. 

What’s Your Calling? (Part 1)

When you think about calling what comes to mind?  At Rockport, MA, I began to reflect on Simon’s call and subsiquent name change to Peter or “Rocky.”

If Jesus were to change your name what would it be?  Peter’s calling metaphor that embodied his call was “Fisher of Men,”  What would yours be?

As you think about your call?

  • What is your name?
  • What metaphor embodies your call?
  • If you have been called are you following?

What does it mean to have a call from God?

It Worked For Me by Colin Powell

it worked for me audio Colin Powell spoke at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit this year and after hearing him speak, I picked up his book and accompanying audio version. Listening to It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership read by the author felt like I was sitting down with with Colin Powell talking about life over a cup of coffee.   The book starts with Powell’s 13 Rules and then moves through various personal reflective stories that teach, encourage, and inspire one to be a better leader.  Powell tells his formational stories in a humble, lighthearted way that entertains yet mentors one to be a better person and leader.

As a military leader, anyone of the forty-four chapters are worth the price of the book and the time it takes to go through it.  This book will stretch and encourage you to become a better leader.  If you have not reflected on Powell’s 13 rules they are worth thinking about.  Check out the video below as he explains the importance of rule #1 and #13.

The book is divided into 6 parts.

Part 1:  The Rules Powell discusses his 13 rules, how they came to be and a story or antidote associated each.

Part 2: Know Yourself, Be Yourself is autobiographical as Powell reflects on his life and personal experiences.

Part 3: Take Care of the Troops is about how leaders must care for their followers and set a positive example.

Part 4:  Fast Times in the Digital World is reflections of technology and media in government.  There is a very helpful chapter on doing new interviews.

Part 5:  Getting to 150 Percent Powell highlights principles of working with a team and the need for rest and perspective.

Part 6:  Reflections Powell concludes by discussing some events that are well known, some mistakes that he has made, things he would do different and various misc. encouraging stories.

 Check Colin Powell’s It Worked For Me out today.  You will be glad you did!

  • After you read the 13 rules which one stood out to you?
  • What are somethings you have learned from Colin Powell from this book or from other things you have heard or read?

5 Sites with Free Resources for Ministry

lightBelow are my Top 5 Picks for free Ministry resource sites.

Check them out and let me know what you think.

Open by Life Church  Find sermon ideas, series graphics and more on this site.

Church on the Move: Seeds This Church has provided videos, audio, and sermon series graphic for free download.

ChurchLeaders.com  Free leader resources, articles, ebooks and more.

Elevation Church Resources  Various resources from past series that can be download for use in your ministry context.

Creation Swap  There are a variety of stock photos, sermon slides, and graphics that can be downloaded.

The best way to see what is out there is explore, I hope you find something helpful for use in your context!

  • Have you used any of these?
  • Do you have any that you would recommend?

David and Goliath: Malcom Gladwell

dgI just fished listening to the book,  David and Goliath:  Underdogs Misfits, and the art of Battling Giants  by Malcolm Gladwell.  I saw the his TED talk on the theme of  the book and was intrigued by the unique look at a familiar story.  So I downloaded the book from Audible and began to listen to and from work, commuting.  It captured my imagination.  I have read several of Gladwell’s books so I knew it would be good, but this one was surprising in the way I personality connected with the book.  Gladwell has a way of telling stories that connect.  He shares so many details and turns the angle on a story to show you something from a different perspective.  He has a way to open your mind to new understanding and inspire you in some way.

I was struck by one of the final chapters as he explained a clear contrast of law, justice, and payback verses the idea of grace and forgiveness.  Gladwell contrasted two riveting stories of parents who’s daughters were murdered and the different approach to dealing with grief and continuing in live.  The different perspectives each family took and how that effected healing was fascinating.

This book is a must read and has provoked and challenged my thinking.  It pushes the reader to rethink the notions that one has and begin to look at life and situations from a different angle.  Gladwell will compel you to look at a situation in a clearer more focused way.

Check out David and Goliath:  Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants today you won’t be disappointed!

  • Have you read the book or seen the TED Talk?
  • What did you think about them?
  • What was your favorite story or idea that was raised?