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Salutatorian is an academic title given in the United States, Armenia, and the Philippines to the second-highest-ranked 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.[1][2][3]

Latin salutatorian[edit]

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.[4]


Salutatorians are usually awarded silver medals, with valedictorians receiving the gold medal during the graduation ceremony.

Notable salutatorians in the U.S.[edit]

  • 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)[5]
  • John Legend, singer-songwriter
  • Clare Murray, Student at Weston High School (Connecticut) 2014
  • Brent Liles, bassist for various punk bands Troy High School, Fullerton, California, Class of 1981.[6] * Michelle Obama (Whitney Young High School, Illinois, Class of 1981) [6]
  • 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)[7][8]
  • Robin Roberts, newscaster (Pass Christian High School, Mississippi, Class of 1979[9])
  • Erich Segal, author and screenwriter (Harvard College, Massachusetts, Class of 1958)[10]
  • Carrie Underwood, singer-songwriter (Checotah High School, Oklahoma, Class of 2001)[11]
  • 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 2006)
  • Otto Warmbier, (Wyoming High School, Wyoming, Ohio, Class of 2013)[12]
  • James "Murr" Murray Actor / Comedian / Impractical Jokers. (Monsignor Farrell High School, Staten Island, Class of 1994)

See also[edit]


  1. John-Waller (11 January 2016). "The latest Boston, local and national news". Retrieved 17 July 2018. 
  2. "10 Salutatorian Speech Ideas Multi-Functional • My Speech Class". 12 May 2018. Retrieved 17 July 2018. 
  3. "Example of a Valedictorian Speech". Retrieved 17 July 2018. 
  4. Charter of the College of New Jersey (1746).
  5. "Illinois State Society of Washington, DC". Retrieved 17 July 2018. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Michelle Obama, Salutatorian, Graduation Pose at Whitney Young High School in Chicago (1981) and Michelle Obama Today". Retrieved 17 July 2018. 
  7. "Biography - Bettie Page". Retrieved 17 July 2018. 
  8. "Darkwaterbearer - Life is like a box of chocolates". 21 October 2012. 
  9. "Robin Roberts Goes Back Home". 6 January 2006. Retrieved 17 July 2018. 
  10. "Archived copy". 
  11. "Archived copy". 
  12. Sparling, Hannah (2017-06-19). "Otto Warmbier, imprisoned in North Korea, dies in U.S.". The Cincinnati Enquirer at USA Today. Retrieved 2017-06-20.  "There, in Wyoming, Ohio, Otto Warmbier was a standout soccer player and a 2013 salutatorian at Wyoming High School, his alma mater." was the original source. Read more.