Salutatorian is an academic title given in the United States and Philippines to the second-highest graduate of the entire graduating class of a specific discipline. Only the valedictorian is ranked higher. This honor is traditionally based on grade point average (GPA) and number of credits taken, but consideration may also be given to other factors such as co-curricular and extracurricular activities. The title comes from the salutatorian's traditional role as the first speaker at a graduation ceremony, delivering the salutation (where the valedictorian, on the other hand, speaks last, delivering the valediction). In a high school setting, a salutatorian may also be asked to speak about the current graduating class or to deliver an invocation or benediction. In some instances, the salutatorian may even deliver an introduction for the valedictorian. The general themes of a salutatorian speech and valediction are usually of growth, outlook towards the future, and thankfulness.
At the universities of Princeton and Harvard a Latin orator, usually a classics major, is chosen for his or her ability to write and deliver a speech to the audience in that language. At Princeton, this speaker is known as the "Latin salutatorian"; at Harvard the Latin oration, though not called a "salutatory" address as such, occurs first among the three student orations, and fulfills the traditional function of salutation. These traditions date from the earliest years of the universities, when all graduates were expected to have attained proficiency in the "Learned Languages," i.e., Latin and Greek. Of course, this traditional use of Latin for the salutatorian's speech has become problematic as Latin has become the province of the Classics department rather than a required competency for all graduating seniors. At Harvard, an assistant may hold up cue cards instructing the audience to cheer, laugh and groan at the appropriate moments. At Princeton the graduating seniors are provided with a special version of the printed program.
Notable salutatorians in the U.S.
- Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States
- Aravind Adiga, author, Winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize
- Norris Cole, basketball player for the New Orleans Pelicans
- Connie Francis, singer (Belleville High School, New Jersey, Class of 1955)
- Georgie Anne Geyer, journalist and foreign affairs columnist (Calumet High School, Illinois, Class of 1952)
- John Legend, singer-songwriter
- Brent Liles, bassist for various punk bands Troy High School, Fullerton, California, Class of 1981.
- Evan Mecham, Governor of Arizona (Altamont High School, Utah, Class of 1942)
- Michelle Obama (Whitney Young High School, Illinois, Class of 1981)
- Walter O'Malley, sports executive who owned the Brooklyn Dodgers team in Major League Baseball from 1950 to 1979, University of Pennsylvania
- Bettie Page, pin-up model and Playboy Playmate (Hume-Fogg High School, Tennessee, Class of 1940)
- Robin Roberts, newscaster (Pass Christian High School, Mississippi, Class of 1979)
- Erich Segal, author and screenwriter (Harvard College, Massachusetts, Class of 1958)
- Carrie Underwood, singer-songwriter (Checotah High School, Oklahoma, Class of 2001)
- John Wayne, actor, Academy Award winner (Glendale High School, California, Class of 1924)
- James Garfield, the 20th President of the United States (Williams College, Massachusetts, Class of 1842)
- Richard Sherman, an NFL player for the Seattle Seahawks (Dominguez High School, Compton, California, Class of 2005)
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- Most e-mailed and downloaded Salutatorian speech from Boston Globe - Boston.com, "Operation Red Sprinkles" by Anisha Shenai, June 16, 2010. http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/danvers/2010/06/danvers_high_salutatorian_spee.html
- Salutatorian Speech: 10 Speech Ideas http://www.speech-topics-help.com/salutatorian-speech.html
- Example of a Valedictorian Speech http://www.best-speech-topics.com/example-of-a-valedictorian-speech.html
- Charter of the College of New Jersey (1746).
- July 14, 2009