“This is Water” [Stallings]

When you think of a commencement speech there are several things that normally come to mind. Inspirational, story-telling, it teaches you a lesson. People give graduation speeches as a means of imparting on you some wisdom before you go out into the world. David Foster Wallace’s This is Water is an example of this idea that is a vital part of graduations. He tells a couple stories, has a lesson to share with you, and leaves you thinking.

The idea of a genre can have many connotations to it, whether it be music, literature, or writing. Kerry Dirk says that a genre is a way that you cater your writing by knowing your audience. As well as what you want to accomplish. In the case of Wallace’s speech he is specifically addressing a class that is graduating from a liberal arts school.  The author points out how his job is to explain why the degree those students are receiving has actual human payoff. He states that a liberal arts school teaches you how to think, and then explains why this is related to living compassionately.

Dirk also says that a genre is a way to know what to expect out of something, and what is appropriate. You expect to leave your graduation with a diploma, and hopefully some preparation for what comes after. David Foster Wallace is teaching a critical life lesson in his speech about ways in which you control how you think. Wallace says that to live life compassionately you have to choose how to think. He states that everyone is hardwired to believe that they are the center of the universe. In order to change your mindset you have to realize that everyone else around you might have the same problems you do.

At the end of his speech he says how hard it is to live consciously day in and day out. However, throughout the speech he also tells you that its a choice. You decide what has meaning to you. He leaves you with a new attitude about how you choose to live your life.

One thought on ““This is Water” [Stallings]

  1. You’ve done a good job of (as the literature professors would say) putting Dirk and Wallace into conversation with each other. Now try to enhance your post with specific examples from Wallace’s speech, at the same time editing it so that the length stays about the same.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *