In a recent Huffington Post article written by Maddie Crum, she investigates some of the best commencement speeches ever delivered by authors. While authors are often always living their life in metaphor and plot, they tend to deliver their commencement speeches in a “straight-shooter” approach, trying their best to give the last bit of advice to college students before they go out into the real world. Crum gives us a list of some of the best speeches and also lets us know about a different side to the authors themselves.
1. David Foster Wallace, 2005, Kenyon College
Wallace’s speech defended the importance of liberal arts education. Wallace’s view was an interesting one, at that time many people were changing their opinion on whether it was as important to read a book rather than simply having a conversation, watching a movie or watching a television show. His speech was later made into a popular short book called This is Water. He also explains a benefit to reading more as a way to enjoy your surroundings whether than have disdain for them, saying that he changed his outlook on a busy grocery store line or traffic to simply “contextualizing the experience.”
2. George Saunders, 2013, Syracuse University
Saunders began his speech talking about the usual circumstance of commencement addresses involving old men telling young kids how to live their lives. Saunders quickly joked he would be doing the same. The main theme with his speech afterward was for the recent graduates to “err in the direction of kindness” after he told them to do all of the things that make life worthwhile like travel, fall in love, and make and lose fortunes.
3. Susan Sontag, 2003, Vassar College
Sontag was very explicit about the young graduates not accepting the information given to them just because it is there but encouraged them to do their own research. She also mentioned that while you should want to be happy, it shouldn’t be the only goal and happiness will find its way to those who are caring and motivated.
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