“If You’re So Smart Why Aren’t You Rich?”

23 May


Being the time of year when college’s graduate their student/debtors, the ceremonies hold forth the possibility, if not the promise of wise words flowing forth from the various commencement speakers called upon to ease graduates into their new reality. David Foster Wallace’s2005 Kenyon College graduation day peroration has been enshrined in a cleverly designed tome entitled ‘This is Water” And currently Social Network screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s Syracuse oration is making the Internet rounds.Its a creditable speech and its worth reading if just for his acknowledgment, “Don’t ever forget that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has.”

One of my favorites is Richard Russo’s 2004 Colby College disquisition Which he concludes in his special,understated style:

Okay, that’s pretty much it. It’s all I know, and then some. Four simple, deeply flawed rules to live by. Go to it. Be bold. Be true. Be kind. Rotate your tires. Don’t drink so much. There aren’t going to be enough liver transplants to go around.

Good luck.

There is an issue of special importance for me (and perhaps other parents of teen agers) buried in all this graduation—what is the value of college in the modern world? Andrew Delbanco who among other things wrote a splendid biography of Herman Melville takes on this issue in his latest opus College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be (Princeton University Press) The title of course aptly tips you off to what he is about and he previews his thoughts in a magazine piece here where he observes

As the literary scholar Norman Foerster once put it, the American college has always sought to prepare students for more than “pecuniary advantage over the unprepared.” To succeed in sustaining college as a place where liberal learning still takes place will be very costly. But in the long run, it will be much more costly if we fail.

Delbanco extemporizes here:

And here he (wearing a tie) talks with PBS’s Jeffrey Brown here:

Currently reading The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero (Riverhead)

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