While delivering the commencement speech at Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences on May 11, George Saunders congradulates the young graduates, letting them in on a secret that he regrets not following all too well in his lifetime. Wherever your life may lead you, make an effort to “err in the direction of kindness.” Saunders explains that this practice is going to be perpetually challenging throughout the course of one’s entire life, but the payoff is worth it. Diminishing the idea of our own “self” is the message of this speech. Looking inside, finding the beautiful and shining souls that exist within us all, and clearing away anything that may get in the way of it revealing itself to the rest of the world. Life is a constant exercise in self-improvement; education, self-awareness and knowing that you are worthy are three things that are incredibly important during this journey.
The beginning of the speech starts off with Saunders picking apart the genre of the “traditional” form of commencement speech. This engages the reader by inferring that this speech will be anything but traditional. It is another, clever, way to break the ice, soon divulging in the core message of the speech-regret and kindness. He proceeds into the foundation of the speech, talking about a failure of kindness, an inability to see things from another perspective, to understand that we are all far from perfect, and that we are all going through this thing called “life” together. This approach is a sure fire way to get the reader thinking back through their “High Kindess periods and Low Kindness periods” and in doing so, creates an ethos for Saunders that gives him a courageous, spirited influence.
Diving deep into his own past, he shares few of his own memories. Having lived what seems to be quite the interesting life, he confesses his biggest regret was "failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me,