This Is Water David Foster Wallace 2005 Kenyon College Commencement Speech
This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life is an essay by David Foster Wallace, first published in book form by Little, Brown and Company in 2009. The text originates from a commencement speech given by Wallace at Kenyon College on May 21, 2005. Before Little, Brown’s publication, a transcript of the speech circulated around the Internet. The essay was also published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006.
This essay covers subjects including “the difficulty of empathy,” “the importance of being well adjusted,” and “the essential lonesomeness of adult life.”
A nine minute video with Wallace’s voice of the speech was produced by The Glossary and published on the internet in May 2013. This was subsequently removed from YouTube and Vimeo on 21 May due to “a copyright claim by David Foster Wallace Literary Trust” after receiving more than 4 million views.
David Foster Wallace (February 21, 1962 — September 12, 2008) was an award-winning American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Wallace is widely known for his 1996 novel Infinite Jest, which was cited as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005 by Time magazine.
Los Angeles Times book editor David Ulin called Wallace “one of the most influential and innovative writers of the last 20 years”. With his suicide, he left behind an unfinished novel, The Pale King, which was subsequently published in 2011, and in 2012 was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A biography of Wallace by D. T. Max, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, was published in September 2012.
Wallace’s first novel, 1987’s The Broom of the System, garnered national attention and critical praise. Caryn James of The New York Times called it a successful “manic, human, flawed extravaganza”, “emerging straight from the excessive tradition of Stanley Elkin’s Franchiser, Thomas Pynchon’s V., John Irving’s World According to Garp”. Wallace moved to Boston, Massachusetts, for graduate school in philosophy at Harvard University, but soon abandoned it. In 1991 he began teaching literature as an adjunct professor at Emerson College in Boston.
In 1992, at the behest of colleague and supporter Steven Moore, Wallace obtained a position in the English department at Illinois State University. He had begun work on his second novel, Infinite Jest, in 1991, and submitted a draft to his editor in December 1993. After the publication of excerpts throughout 1995, the book was published in 1996.
Wallace published short fiction in Might, GQ, Playboy, The Paris Review, Harper’s Magazine, Mid-American Review, Conjunctions, Esquire, Open City, Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The New Yorker, and Science.
In 1997, Wallace received a MacArthur Fellowship, as well as the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, awarded by editors of The Paris Review for one of the stories in Brief Interviews—”Brief Interviews with Hideous Men #6″—which had appeared in the magazine.
In 2002, he moved to Claremont, California, to become the first Roy E. Disney Professor of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Pomona College. He taught one or two undergraduate courses per semester and focused on his writing.
In May 2005, Wallace delivered the commencement address to the graduating class at Kenyon College. The speech was published as a book in 2009 under the title This Is Water. In May 2013, portions of the speech were used in a popular online video also titled “This is Water”, which received over 4 million views on YouTube in its first week. 
Bonnie Nadell was Wallace’s literary agent through his entire career. Michael Pietsch was his editor on Infinite Jest.
In March 2009, Little, Brown and Company announced that it would publish the manuscript of an unfinished novel, The Pale King, that Wallace was working on at the time of his death. The Pale King was pieced together by editor Michael Pietsch from pages and notes the author left behind. Several excerpts from it were published in the New Yorker and other magazines. The Pale King was published on April 15, 2011, and received generally positive reviews.
In March 2010, it was announced that Wallace’s personal papers and archives—drafts of books, stories, essays, poems, letters, and research, including the handwritten notes for Infinite Jest—had been purchased by the University of Texas at Austin and will reside at the University’s Harry Ransom Center.