Analysis of Speech by David Foster Wallace “This is Water”

David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College, “This is Water” had a unique approach to the way we live life. He asserts the audience that we, the people, are the centers of our own universe and have the power to change the way we live our lives. He talks about changing our monotonous lives and changing one’s perspectives towards others. Throughout his speech, he uses various persuasive techniques while engaging the audience and using emotional appeals and relating to the everyday lives of the people. Using these techniques not only helped in community his idea but also gave new meanings and thoughts to the speech. Wallace’s speech helps us to not be in a constant search for money, power and being the center of attention, while encourages us to look at live with a positive approach and live in the moment and how a person thinks can have a big impact on their lives.

David Foster Wallace’s speech talks about how a person can bring about a change in his life by choosing what to think. The audience of his speech are the graduating seniors who are about to enter a new phase in their lives. However, the speech is addressed to not only the young people but also to the parents and adults and those who wish to view life differently. He actively engages the audience by using real-life experiences and maintains a personal and direct tone which helps his audience to relate to his ideas. By using phrases such as “we know all too well what I’m talking about” and “you get the idea”, he involves the audience in active conversation and closes the gap between audience and speaker. He involves the audience in his speech by drawing a story rather than giving claims and facts which makes them more interested. His tone is confident and calm which helps the audience to not lose interest.

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“Learning how to think” really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Wallace describes life after college as a “default-setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth” (Wallace, 2005, p.5). He says that life will remain the same until we think about it in a positive way or find something that gives us enjoyment.

DQ: (In-text citations)

Wallace (2005) stated “…………” (p.5). or

According to Wallace (2005), “………” (p.5).

Paraphrase: The sky is blue (Wallace, 2005, p.5).


Wallace, D.F. (2005). This is water. Retrieved from

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