Commencement Address Roundup: Farmer, Franzen, and Beyond

If you missed it, video of Dr. Paul E. Farmer’s commencement address to the Class of 2011 has been online at Wesleyan’s Reunion & Commencement website for the past week or so.

The superlative for Most Blogged About Commencement Address, though, likely goes to novelist Jonathan Franzen, who spoke at Kenyon College in Ohio a few weeks ago. (Kenyon has a recent history of piercing commencement addresses from contemporary literary giants, as any David Foster Wallace fan will attest.)

More recently, Franzen’s fantastic speech was adapted as a New York Times op-ed, “Liking Is For Cowards. Go For What Hurts.” Yes, that kind of liking: Franzen casts insight on the troubled links between technology, commercial culture, and looooove, yet approaches the topic in prose far more lyrical than your generic 2009-era features piece about The Kids These Days and their Twittering Facebook Exploits. Franzen’s conclusion falls in favor of commitment to “real danger” that comes from “real relation to real people”–because “being perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships.”

For an excerpt:

To speak more generally, the ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes — a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance — with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self.

Let me suggest, finally, that the world of techno-consumerism is therefore troubled by real love, and that it has no choice but to trouble love in turn.

You can read Franzen’s full piece here, or “like” the award-winning author on Facebook here. The ACB’s dead (sort of), so you may as well check out this (entirely inadequate, non-exhaustive) list of other notable commencement addresses while you’re at it:

[via The Daily Beast]

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