“About all a commencement speaker can really do is to suggest a couple of things that [he or] she believes really matters.” Sue Monk Kidd stated this while addressing the graduates of Scripps College. On May 21, 2005 Kenyon College graduation welcomed David Foster Wallace, an American novelist, for their commencement address. A prime example of Kidd’s statement, Wallace stated in address that “suicide’s [victims] are actually long dead before they pull the trigger” (Wallace 4). His address titled This Is Water was delivered to the graduating class of 2005 before his death in 2008. Through the use of informal language, forming a connection outside of his target audience, and genuine demeanor, David Foster Wallace’s “The Is Water” successfully delivers his message to his target audience.
Kenyon College is a private liberal arts university in Gambier, OH with enrollment listed on their website just short of 2,000 students. Tuition and fees total to about just under $50,000 per year (Kenyon 1). Kenyon College also states on their website that they “welcome openness.” Typically, liberal arts students are very open to new experiences provided by interactions with new people with varying/different ideals. Wallace’s target audience consisted of hundreds of liberal arts graduate students.
David Foster Wallace embraced the task of engaging young adults in a life lesson on one of the most exciting days of their lives. How did he go about doing so? While Wallace also has his own liberal arts degree, his status alone does not convince his audience to consider what he had to say was worth listening to. Instead of the traditional lesson with the formal, experienced and distinguished teacher talking down to his cl...
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... escape their own brain. Through informal language, presenting relatable experiences, and presenting himself in an honest form, his speech becomes more engaging and his audience more receptive to his message. Wallace urges the graduating students to hold the value of their education in high regard and make proper use of it when thinking critically (Wallace 2). While Wallace’s warning targeted the graduating class, his speech can be viewed to be just as effective to the other individuals in attendance, which would include the parents/families of graduates and the university faculty and staff in attendance. Wallace believed that this warning was what truly mattered and was needed to be pressed upon his audience due to the fact that he was indeed victim to this imprisonment from which he found his release from on September 12th, 2008, through hanging himself (Weber 1).
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