Comparing and Contrasting This is Water by David Wallace and Congratulation by the Way by George Saunders with Chapter 11 and 12 of The Prophet by Khalil Gibran

Most people celebrate their graduations because they are significant landmarks in their lives. Graduations often reflect upcoming life transformations, which provide graduates with increasing expectations, promises, and confusion. On such days, many colleges invite prominent academics to give moving commencement addresses in order to acknowledge the students’ achievements when discussing potential extortions. However, because of the enthusiasm that comes with completing a college education, many students pay no heed to the guidance offered by these commencement speakers. Against this background, the paper compares and contrasts two commencement speeches titled This is Water presented by David Wallace at Kenyon College in 2005 against Congratulations by the Way address by George Saunders to Syracuse University graduating class of 2013. Accordingly, the assignment will compare and contrast these two speeches against chapter eleven and twelve of the book The Prophet by  Khalil Gibran. Largely, the two books hold similar views concerning kindness/compassion and the effects of decisions made regarding the two virtues in life. However, they differ in the way they explore adult reality in the U.S. society.

Similarities in the Two Books

The two speakers share a similar theme on the importance of living a caring and sympathetic life in the society. The speeches explore the relevance of having various virtues such as kindness and compassion. To begin with, Wallace starts by deconstructing some of the preconceived premises in art, that education should change the learners’ thought process. Wallace points out that education should not only help students in thinking critically but also in making coherent analysis and arguments by being less arrogant and compassionate. The author views education as a lifelong process that should help people shun off their constricted views about the World by developing broader perceptions that include respecting others’ perceptions of life. In this regard, Wallace criticizes a self-centered approach towards life as he says, “Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe” (Wallace 2). The statement implies that self-centeredness prevents people from having meaningful engagement with the World through awareness and compassion.

George Saunders, by contrast, begins his speech by providing an anecdote concerning a young girl he failed to help in seventh grade. The primary message in Saunders revolves around the importance of kindness in life. To this end, he points out that, “find out what makes you kinder, what opens you up and brings out the most loving, generous, and unafraid version of you, (Saunders 50). Nevertheless, Saunders argues that attaining kindness in the society comes with its fair share of challenges and requires the collaboration of the whole society. These arguments contend with Gibran (24) who asserts that “So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.” The statement implies that selfish acts such as bullying prevail in the community if its members fail to condemn or take actions against the perpetrators. Failing to condemn selfishness or criminal acts haunts people in life as it occurs to Saunders who was unable to act kindly to the young girl.

Differences in the Two Books

Saunders speech does not cover some of the essential problems that an average American adult faces on a daily basis. Primarily, Saunders concentrates on kindness, and the perceptions students hold regarding education and its role in attaining employment opportunities. Arguably, Saunders fails to address economic, ethical issues that cause inequality and injustice, which results in hunger, greed, and poverty in the country. Wallace, by contrast, discusses the tedious and stressful conditions the U.S. economic imposes on adults. Ostensibly, the U.S. economy cannot, “…see that no one has gone his way with empty hands” (Gibran 22). As a result, many citizens work in strenuous conditions only to go home and find nothing to eat. Wallace argues that people have to develop appropriate thought processes, which enhance conscious decision-making among the available alternatives. One of the decisions involves exerting love and kindness to ensure that everyone has a portion of societal wealth.

How the Works Coincide with my Views

In my opinion, the two books address essential issues that affect daily adult life especially decision making and maintaining healthy social interactions with others in the society. Notably, both books contend with my perceptions regarding compassion and kindness. The arguments on the long-term effects of decisions remind of previous occasions where some of my friends have suffered because of my negligence and failure to condemn selfish actions. The information in the two speeches agrees with the two chapters extracted from the book The Prophet. In the same vein, I support the books’ propositions that human interactions and exchanges must take place with kindness and love to allow everybody understand their neighbors and share with them the abundance of the World.


The explorations above suggest that the two books hold similar views concerning kindness/compassion and the effects of decisions made regarding the two virtues in life. However, they differ in the way they explore adult reality in the U.S. society. Wallace speech emphasizes the relevance of shunning self-centeredness in life by incorporating other people’s point of views. He also discusses the importance of conscious decision making on post-college life mainly making choices on employment and recreation issues. On the other hand, Saunders echoes the same opinions through an anecdote that discusses his earlier failures to demonstrate kindness to his classmate during seventh grade. The two books differ slightly on the approaches used in presenting the information. Wallace gives more weight to practical economic issues affecting most of the American adults, unlike Saunders who only emphasize kindness. Markedly, the two speeches highlight the primary theme of The Prophet, which stresses love and kindles in human existence.

Works Cited

Saunders, George. Congratulations, by the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness. Random House, 2014.

Gibran, Khalil. “The Prophet. 1923.” Reprint. New York (2001).

Wallace, David Foster. This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about living a Compassionate Life. Hachette UK, 2009.

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