George Saunders and David Foster Wallace

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We are constantly advised by our parents, elder people, teachers but we only keep the advice in our minds until we find ourselves in problems. As we gain age we become wiser and we remember the advice given to us that helps us go through tuff times in lives. Timing when to give advice to people is important and the best times are when someone is in a bad situation or during the graduation ceremony. American colleges select impressive graduation speakers from the field of business, politics and entertainment where successful people are called upon to give speeches in which they mostly they give advice relating to their own experiences.  George Saunders and David Foster Wallace gave inspirational speeches during graduation ceremonies that would help students to use their mistakes or failures to improve their lives after surviving the situation.

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Why do mistakes or failures in life benefit you?

Both the authors answer this by discussing their personal benefits to failures during the graduation ceremonies. George Saunders gave his speech at Syracuse University where he uses a technique of humor to grab the student attention. In his speech touches the need on regretting his actions while at school. He says that as an individual “one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?”. He then reflects on his life the moments that are worth regretting but he says he doesn’t regret them instead he had only one moment which he regretted. He narrates a story of a new girl who joins the school and stays in his neighborhood. She was shy and wore glasses that only old ladies would have and she had no friends and he would also witness others teasing her. But then they moved and that was what he regretted so much (Lovell, 2013).  David Foster Wallace explains the importance of critical thinking where he uses a parable of a religious and atheist man to explain how a choice is conscious.  David argues that we have the power to change how we think when it comes to our everyday life.  He begins his speech “this is water” by giving the idea on the capability of growing our ability to make conscious choices and adapting to the surroundings. He demonstrates that we have a choice of choosing what to think about. He talks to the graduates the importance of freedom which involves discipline, attention and being informed and always sacrificing and caring for other people from time to time. He concludes by saying that real education should have values that have nothing to do with knowledge but everything to do with awareness and we should take our education to be our lifetime job (Wallace, 2009). The teachings apply to both adults and young people.

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These two authors share a common goal of offering the graduates with life lessons that they should learn.  Foster emphasizes on the values of liberal art of education as he gives the benefits of reading the most crucial benefit being that an individual is able to choose the way to see the surrounding  and he tells the Kenyon graduates that the tasks in adult life are what you can make out of them (Wallace, 2005). He argues that after graduating and getting a job that is very demanding and facing life challenges like traffic and having to cue in a grocery store, a liberal art student instead of complaining about them should understand the experience and look at it in a positive way. He advises the students to be reading literary fiction since they promote empathy. Moreover, Saunders in his speech teaches that kindness counts. He begins his speech by telling the young people how to best live their lives a tradition he did not want to defy. After talking about all the things in his life he doesn’t regret he arrives at one thing that he regrets for the rest of his life; failure to show kindness (“Be Kind: George Saunders’ Advice to Graduates Goes Viral |,”). He says that we can do all the things we want in life like travel, accumulate wealth, fall in love, be famous and or make fortunes but all this should direct us to show kindness to others.

Ultimately, even as a graduate outside the school or during school life, we have applied our education values in real life as we relate to others. Foster explains that art education will help us in our life by assisting us to make valid decisions that we will not regret as in the case with Saunders who has some regrets in his life. In life, we should show kindness and sympathy to others our parents, friends, workmates and also apply the values of life to help us cope with challenging situations in life.

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Did you like this sample?
  1. Wallace, D. F. (2005). Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address-May 21, 2005.
  2. Wallace, D. F. (2009). This is water: Some thoughts, delivered on a significant occasion, about living a compassionate life. Hachette UK.
  3. Lovell, J. (2013). George Saunders’s Advice to Graduates. New York Times, 31.
  4. Be Kind: George Saunders’ Advice to Graduates Goes Viral | (n.d.).
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