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  • NYS Writers Institute

Congratulations to the college graduates. Here's one more speech for you.

“If you really learn how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred.” -- David Foster Wallace, 2005

In the past week, nearly 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students received their degrees at the University at Albany. That includes approximately 600 Class of 2020 students who returned to campus to participate in a long-awaited in-person ceremony. Congratulations and best wishes to each and every one.

Last year, we posted some inspirational words from a diverse collection of writers and notables.

This year, let's look back to David Foster Wallace's commencement address at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio in 2005. Several lists rank this speech as one of the all-time best commencement addresses. It's the only time Wallace gave a public talk on his views on life, speaking to the questions, How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion?

The recently-graduated students of UAlbany are exhausted. More than a year into the COVID pandemic, hundreds of lectures and courses viewed through their computers instead of classrooms, a future uncertain on so many levels. Perhaps David Foster Wallace's speech from 16 years ago offers some guidance.

You can read the read the transcript here.

The speech was printed in book form, titled This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life. It's available for purchase at the local, independent Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza:

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