Respond: Compose a 3-4-page essay in response:

Commencement addresses are often cheerful and inspiring speeches that give life advice to graduates as they sit proudly in their cap and gowns. As you may have noticed, this is not one of those speeches, at least in the traditional sense. Instead, David Foster Wallace questions and explores our techniques and strategies for day-to-day living, even beyond college. Your essay will respond to David Foster Wallace’s argument. That means you will first need to understand and identify Wallace’s central thesis, attribute it to him (give him credit for his ideas!) and then describe how your opinion is similar or different to Wallace’s.

I will use this first essay to evaluate your personal writing habits, style, and skills. Use the pre-writing techniques we discuss in class to generate ideas for the essay, especially when you formulate your thesis. After reading your essay, I will give you feedback that includes my own perceptions of your writing challenges, personalized practice recommendations, and my hopes for you as a writer. 

Checklist (be sure to read and follow each item):

  • Demonstrate understanding of the speech (Watch the video and read the transcript carefully while taking notes and define all unknown vocabulary).
  • Take a stance. State a clear thesis.
  • Plan and organize your essay.
  • Support your thesis.
  • Incorporate ideas and quotations from the video along with your own experience and knowledge.
  • Stay on topic.
  • Proofread for clarity, tone, and grammar.
  • Use Times New Roman, 12 pt font. Double space. 1” margins.
  • Length (3-4 pgs.): A page is counted if the text runs past the middle of the page.


Each of the check marks above represents 10 possible points. Although this is worth only 10% of your grade, you want to turn in your best work so you know exactly what to practice during the weeks we have together. Both you and I should expect improvement in your writing over the quarter.

Make sure you give yourself enough time to resolve any technical problems before the deadline.