‘We live in an age in which ideas – important ideas – are worn like articles of fashion’.
Few things bypass our culture’s codified shell of cynicism more elegantly and powerfully than the commencement address — that singular mode of intravenous wisdom-delivery wherein an elder steps onto a stage and plugs straight into what Oscar Wilde called the “temperament of receptivity,” so elusive in all hearts and doubly so in the young.
History’s greatest commencement addresses — masterworks like Joseph Brodsky’s “Speech at the Stadium” and David Foster Wallace’s “This Is Water” — deliver not vacant platitudes but hard-earned life-tested insight into the beliefs behaviors and habits of mind that embolden us to live good rewarding, noble lives.
That is what celebrated writer Tom Wolfe (b. March 2, 1931) delivered when he took the podium at Boston University in 2000 with a magnificent address.