examing the key to happiness

Topics: Graduation, David Foster Wallace, Commencement speech Pages: 3 (1156 words) Published: December 3, 2014

Examining the Key to Happiness
In David Foster Wallace’s graduation speech, given to the Kenyon College graduating class of 2005, Wallace urges the audience to seek a more open minded perspective on the world. Arguing that societies “default setting” is that of pure self-centered thinking, Wallace strives to change the way we all view life before us. He states that liberal education teaches one, not how to think (as most believe), but rather teaches one the ability to choose how we want to think. We are presented with the choice to decipher every situation the way we want to view it; whether that be positive or negative, we are given the decision to choose how we would like to view it. This decision dictates how we see the world as a whole, and ultimately can directly affect whether we are happy or depressed. The ability to choose is a gift that Wallace strongly portrays throughout his speech. He lays this proposal down effectively by using critical tone, anecdotes, and different points of view. The organization of his ideas and the way he displays them before the audience are what make this speech very effective and understandable. Although there were aspects of celebration throughout his speech, Wallace made sure to yank the listeners back down to earth with brutal strength. His critical, yet honest, tone is vital because although it may appear he is attempting to strike fear in the graduates, Wallace merely wishes to keep them aware that life is about to attack them. Very shortly into his speech he asserts the entire audience is self-centered. Being this critical catches you off guard at first, but he then describes how this selfish way of thinking is simply the default setting we all possess. “Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of.”(Wallace 201) After showing this critical reality, he states that if we all learned to be “a little less arrogant” (Wallace 201) then this socially repulsive way of...

Cited: Wallace, David F. "Kenyon Commencement Speech." (2005). "They Say I Say" with Readings 2 (2012): 198-209. Web.
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