David Foster Wallace’s speech This is water has a deceptively simple title. In fact, the speech is about more than just water; it addresses the arrogance, awareness, and close-mindedness of people. After reading Wallace’s speech the first time, I can honestly say that it overwhelmed me. I initially opened a file from my English teacher expecting its content to be as interesting as John McCain. (Sorry about the illogical comparison) However after scanning the content a few more times, I faced the cold hard reality that David Foster Wallace’s speech was…interesting? I know, I am as shocked as most of you (the audience) are. An assigned reading project interesting? It seems highly contradictory.
The use of analogies genuinely entertained me as well as made the content easier to comprehend. For example, I found the analogy of a white collar worker entertaining because it presented a mundane routine; however, the writer adds real thoughts and emotions that I could relate to. In addition, the level of detail is used to an almost comedic effect. Although I am not a stressed white collar office worker, the big idea of the speech was not wasted on me.
The big idea Wallace emphasizes is that a degree does not teach you how to think. Instead, a degree educates you on how to obtain freedom by being critically aware, attentive, and disciplined. I must agree with Wallace that real education is not all book knowledge, but rather it involves being aware of the surrounding world. However, I must add that to be truly educated one does not even need a “liberal arts degree.” One’s eyes are not automatically opened to new perspectives just because one earns a degree. Instead real education is obtained by constantly interacting with people. Each interaction with a person adds to one’s education. Being experienced at dealing with people AND understanding people is the only way to achieve the freedom Wallace romanticizes in his speech. I must agree with Wallace’s belief that freedom is being able to consciously make decisions. What do you believe freedom is and how is it earned?
David Foster Wallace’s speech: http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~drkelly/DFWKenyonAddress2005.pdf