President Amy Gutmann just started the year off with her Convocation address to the Class of 2020. We took a look at her speeches over the past few years to find her most familiar patterns — repeated words and phrases — that highlight the ideas and themes that matter most to the school.
When put through an online analysis program, her speeches recorded in the Almanac dating back to 2011 show recurring buzzwords throughout the years like “discovery”, “engagement” and “community” but also more unexpected words like “strange”, “Palestra” and “rex”, which have all appeared over five times.
Words that reflect the administration’s emphasis on mental health and well-being are also reflected in the recurrence of words like “help”, “challenging” and “advice” as Gutmann acknowledges the transition to college and the obstacles that come with it.
A few unexpected repetitions are also present in the speeches. Gutmann repeatedly emphasizes the states of New York, California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania in her Convocation addresses as she lauds the diversity of the makeup of the incoming class. Gutmann also does not forget to recognize the non-freshmen Penn students as she repeatedly makes jokes, telling the transfers “smart move!” and “brilliant move!”
Her Convocation speeches also show some repeated, identical phrases that she uses to unite the freshman class.
This year and in the past two years, Gutmann encouraged greetings in her speech, asking the audience to “look around and greet somebody near you whom you haven’t met before.” She also uses the word “engage” over 18 times throughout the past five speeches starting in 2015, saying in 2012 that the “three easy words that define your journey to a gold medal Penn experience: Ready, set, engage!” and saying in 2014, “come on now, no exceptions. Engage!”
In the same upbeat fashion, Gutmann also repeats the word “smiles” throughout her speeches and makes use of the motif of time by stating in 2014 and 2015 the identical phrase “this is your time. Penn is your place. Let us begin.”
A Convocation speech from Amy Gutmann also wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the founder of the University, Benjamin Franklin, with references made every year to “our founder, the sage of the American revolution — patriot, printer, and philosopher.”
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