Graduation season means parties, tearful goodbyes, future plans, and speeches. Many graduates may not pay much attention to the content of their commencement address, but some speeches do attract notice. These days a graduation speech that is admired can be easily shared with a wide audience. Occasionally so much interest is generated that a speech is published in book form.
David Foster Wallace spoke to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. "This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life" is a beautiful brief book about the challenges of everyday life. Wallace focuses not on the difficulties of achieving greatness, but on the difficulties of remaining attentive and present through the routine frustrations of life. "It is unimaginably hard to do this - to live consciously, adultly, day in and day out."
Ann Patchett's 2006 commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College "What Now?" is a personal account of how she made her way from graduation day to becoming a bestselling author. She credits her early lessons in following, rather than leading. "Being successful, and certainly being happy, comes from honing your skills in working with other people."
Sitting through a long speech can be tedious, but reading the reflections of these talented writers is a pleasure.
--Jennifer A., Headquarters