WSJ: “This Is Water” Commencement Speech Goes Viral on the Net


The Wall Street Journal has highlighted this commencement speech, and I thought it so good, I had to share it here with my UBC Management students. It is at least as good as Steve Jobs 2005 Stanford commencement address, and it was also given in the same year, 2005.

Ironically, this commencement speech is by a young novelist you probably never heard of (David Foster Wallace),  to the graduating class of the small private, liberal arts (Uh oh, there’s that liberal word again!) college, Kenyon College, in Gambier, Ohio.

DavidFosterWallaceDavid Foster Wallace, Novelist, Deceased

It was given in the same year, 2005, as the now legendary Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford. Wallace’s commencement speech is easily as profound as Job’s.  Jobs died of cancer. Wallace committed suicide in 2008, three years after this speech. But what is important is that despite Wallace’s persistent depression, his speech is a rousing affirmation of life, and being responsible for all of your decisions, and not shirking from your existential angst, at being completely and independently responsible for everything you do in your life.  Following is an edited 9 minute YouTube video of Wallace’s address.  The full 22 minute video of his commencement address is available on YouTube for those who wish to have the full experience.

…and just for the record, this is another powerful example of a great public speaking event.