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Jim Valvano’s Speech Analysis

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For this week’s assignment I used Jim Valvano’s 1993 ESPY speech for my analysis. I chose this speech as cancer research is close to my heart and I support what Jim writes in his speech.


Jim Valvano was a man of many talents: a player, coach, broadcaster, a loving father and husband, but above all, he’ll be remembered as an inspiration and a fighter. He was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 46, and soon realized how precious life was and the importance cancer research would become CITATION VFo l 1033 (Foundation, n.d.). The ESPY speech he gave in March of 1993 supported that realization.

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Mr. Valvano was not only addressing only the people in the audience, he was addressing everyone on the other side of the camera as well. He was trying show everyone that yes, cancer does changes one’s life but it doesn’t change who you are. That life is precious and one must live it to the fullest. I love how he tells the world there are three things a person must do on a daily basis, “laugh, think and cry” -- then and only then have you had a full day CITATION Val08 l 1033 (Valvano, 2008).

Figures and Tropes

After listening multiple times to Mr. Valvano’s speech, I believe that he uses one figure and quite a few tropes. The only figure I was able to spot was “Figure of Repetition” CITATION Kei15 l 1033 (Keith, William and Lundberg, Christian O., 2015). Throughout his speech used this type of figure often, for example when he talks about the three things important in life, “where you started, where you are, and where you are going to be” CITATION Val08 l 1033 (Valvano, 2008).

According to the textbook, this is considered or is known as grammatical repetition. Another example is his most widely used quote: “Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.” CITATION Val08 l 1033 (Valvano, 2008). There are two tropes found in his speech. The first is “Tropes of Comparison: Metaphor and Simile”.

He uses the metaphor “fight my brains out” to drive home the point he wasn’t going to give up fighting cancer. The second trope found in Mr. Valvano’s speech is “Tropes of Exaggeration: Overstatement and Understatement.” In this case he uses a Hyperbole during his speech when he states “they knocked the walls down, and the rest was history” CITATION Val08 l 1033 (Valvano, 2008).

This was to help the audience understand how motivated the players were over Vince Lombardi’s pep-talk and why he wanted to use it. I believe each figure and trope were effective. They were used in ways that caused the audience to be moved to understand and feel the passion coming from Mr. Valvano over living life to the fullest and supporting cancer research. Like he said, “He knew where he came from, he knew where he was, and he knew where he wanted to be”, right in the middle of giving hope to others by establishing the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. CITATION Val08 l 1033 (Valvano, 2008)Canons of Rhetoric

I have watched this speech many times and in my opinion Jim Valvano does demonstrate all four cannons of rhetoric.


The Invention looks at the creation of ideas CITATION DeV18 l 1033 (University, 2018). The idea which he was trying to get across was the fact that life is precious and cancer research is vital to survival. Given that Mr. Valvano is a cancer patient himself, I would say he is defiantly well informed about cancer and the lack of research which was an issue in the early 90’s. He himself is a credible source and is evidence to the fact that life is precious, the importance of living life to the fullest, and supporting cancer research.


The arrangement is the components of the presentation, were they accomplished, did the audience understand it CITATION DeV18 l 1033 (University, 2018)? I believe it was delivered in such a way that it was in fact easy to follow and understand. I did have a hard time distinguishing between the introduction, body and conclusion, but I strongly feel that Mr. Valvano got his point across to the audience.


The style of the presentation is where the speaker uses correct communication choices CITATION DeV18 l 1033 (University, 2018). Mr. Valvano defiantly had style, using speech everyone could understand, words like family, religion, making dreams come true. He was enthusiastic and charismatic, drawing you in with his laughter, his corny jokes, and his love of life. He talked about not being around and the lack of time he wasn’t sure of, and fighting to the very end to see that cancer would be beaten, and that what he was going through would not happen to someone else.


Even though he was weak and sick from his battle with cancer, Mr. Valvano delivered a very moving and inspirational speech. He never wavered; standing proud and making direct eye contact with the audience.

He laughed at jokes, even laughing at a story about himself. One could see the passion about living life to the fullest every day, how absorbing everything, laughing, thinking, and crying actually is a full day. Though he didn’t say it, you could tell he was hopeful that the audience would support his foundation. That he would be able to help save someone’s life thanks to the research foundation which was being established.


  • BIBLIOGRAPHY Foundation, V. (n.d.). The Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. Retrieved from The V Foundation:
  • Keith, William and Lundberg, Christian O. (2015). Public Speaking: Choices and Responsibility (2nd ed.). Bostan, MA: CENGAGE Learning. Retrieved from!/4/368/4@0:52.5
  • University, D. (2018, October). SPCH275 Week 3 Lesson. Retrieved from DeVry University Student Portal:
  • Valvano, J. (Performer). (2008, September 28). Jim's 1993 ESPY Speech. Retrieved from

Related Questions

on Jim Valvano’s Speech Analysis

What is the tone of Jimmy Valvano's speech?

The tone in Jimmy Valvano’s speech is very outgoing and lively. He easily grabs the attention of the audience by being so humble and grateful, speaking softly for the people who took notice of him.

What award did Jim Valvano win at the ESPYs?

Jim Valvano’s ESPY Awards Speech (Excerpt) 3:35 min. On March 4, 1993, Jim Valvano was awarded the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the first annual ESPY Awards.

Why was Jimmy Valvano so popular?

At the time this speech was delivered, Jimmy Valvano was one of the most prominent faces of the sports world. Many people would go as far as to say he represented sports at that time because he appealed to all generations. To the older generation, he was the amazing coach that led North Carolina to a Cinderella victory in 1983.

What did Dick Valvano say about himself?

As Dick said, I’m a very emotional and passionate man. I can’t help it. That’s being the son of Rocco and Angelina Valvano. It comes with the territory. We hug, we kiss, we love. When people say to me how do you get through life or each day, it’s the same thing.

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