Speech! Speech!


I've always liked reading other people's college-graduation addresses, maybe because I didn't get to hear the one directed at me -- the geniuses at Duke set up the stadium's acoustics so the parents in the stands could hear the speech but the kids sitting on the field might as well as been deaf. (Or maybe it was just my corner of the field. Mangesh, you must have been there; can you confirm?) So I was delighted to see that the New Yorker this week printed David Sedaris' amusing, if slightly confusing, commencement speech at Princeton. My other favorite literary David (Foster Wallace) took a more straightforward approach; if you don't think it's possible for a commencement address to be inspirational without being schlocky, you should read what he said at Kenyon last year:

And I submit that this is what the real, no b------t value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let's get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what "day in day out" really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches.

Yeah, maybe that wasn't the best paragraph to excerpt, but I swear, it really is inspirational if you keep reading.