85 Stanford Law graduates try to co-author the perfect commencement speech

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One student is trying to make commencement a little more bearable for her classmates by crowdsourcing her graduation speech.


Marta Belcher has asked fellow members of the Stanford Law School Class of 2015 to help her develop, write and even edit the speech she and several other students will deliver at a diploma ceremony on June 13.

“There is no reason that a graduation ceremony in 2015 should look the same as it did for the Class of 1915,” Belcher said in a statement. “Being at Stanford and in the Silicon Valley, we are surrounded by a spirit of innovation that encourages us to ask, ‘Why do we do it this way, and how can we do it better?’”

Using a class wiki, more than 85 students are working together to create the speech. The group began the third and final phase of the process at the end of April, with an edit-a-thon.

It's the first time students at the school have crowdsourced a speech and it remains to be seen whether the experiment is successful. Incorporating ideas from dozens of students without being too generic and without running six hours is no easy task.

The school did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the substance of the speech or how the students plan to translate the suggestions into anything cohesive.

They have dubbed the address the "WikiSpeech."

Associate Dean for Student Affairs Catherine Glaze praised the concept in a statement.


Crowdsourcing the speech, she said, turns what is typically an individual's account of their time at the school into "a more panoramic view.”

Leslie Bernard Joseph, who will graduate along with Belcher, agrees.

"Many of us talk about doing things differently, making the world a more democratic place," she said. "I think the WikiSpeech is a symbolic step.”


Lofty goals to be sure. We'll check back in June to see how the speech actually shakes out.

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.