David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon Commencement Speech Response

A picture of David Foster Wallace the author and speaker of the infamous Kenyon Commencement Speech

In the speech, David Foster Wallace says that life is more about what school you go to. It’s about the cognitive choices you make to grow into an individual. This idea is very credible because at some point people make decisions for themselves. Once a person sees that they are simply being spoon fed beliefs by society, they can either choose to stay on the path chosen for them by the powerful or gain power and make a path for themselves.


2. How do you usually engage this choice? How would you like to engage this choice?

I engage in this choice usually based on what I enjoy. For example, when I listen to music that’s different rather than what everyone else is listening too. Another time would be when I listen to music that is standard rather than forcing an unconventional style simply to be different. Doing things simply because I like to them allows me to make decisions for myself.

However I would love to do this a deeper level. I would like to choice things against society by ignoring the status quo. I would like to shift my ideas towards money, power, and what they world thinks I should value towards better values such as family, trust, faith, and God. However this is something easier said than done, yet it is also possible.


3. With respect to the audio of the commencement address, often people in the audience clap at moments that DFW is being ironic, or better is even challenging the way they engage the world. Why do you think it is that people clap when DFW is pretty much insulting them? What is this indicative of?

I think that this shows the audience’s divide, those who understand David Foster Wallace’s ideas and those who embody them. The ones that understand his use of satire are clapping in agreement. They are mocking the other side who applaud because it feels right, because society tells them that this is the part where they insert applause here rather than because they actually feel a need to express enjoyment. This shows us that DFW’s point is valid and exposes the flaws in our societal way of thinking.  


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