Columnist misses a great American mind

John Schmidt Web Editor

We all have someone we look up to, or someone we enjoy listening to, reading, watching, etc.

My particular someone is late writer, David Foster Wallace. His literature and non-fiction helped me understand the world and its people. He showed me how to be real, genuine and caring for others even though they will seldom actually care back.

His 2005 commencement speech, This is Water, made me fully understand how and what to think. 

I enjoy his work so much that I did an independent study on him and his journalistic pieces this semester. I’ve done my fair share of research on Wallace just for pleasure, but when I revisited it again for my research project, I started to think about him a lot more. 

Many considered Wallace a genius. Sadly, this genius created anxiety and depression for him to the point where one September day riddled with anger and sadness he decided to commit suicide. This isn’t something that bothers me rather it’s something that makes me really sad. He was the lost voice of the late 80s and 90s and I wish he were around now to chime in on the myriad issues our people face.

His magnum opus, Infinite Jest, discusses a wide array of topics from the entertainment industry to the very broad topic of loneliness. The Broom of the System (my favorite book I might add) is about understanding that you don’t have control over particular things in your life and how to come to terms with that. Good Old Neon talks about how fast the human mind computes things and about the effect actions have on people. 

Before he died in 2008, Wallace was considering becoming a speechwriter for Obama. If you read Wallace’s work, you would be as interested as I would be to see what he would write for the president to read to the people of this great country.

What would he have to say about the Affordable Care Act? Or the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? What about the Black Friday pervasion? All of these things populate our airwaves and headlines and I always think, “What would David say about this?” One issue I think he would enjoy would be the millennial entitlement ideal that has now become pervasive across America. The idea that those who are graduating college or are in college feel entitled and deserve something they didn’t work for and want to work for meaning and not for money. 

Wallace wasn’t around for much of my generation, but I wanted to hear what he had to say about us. He talked about living a meaningful life in 2005 and how to care for others, but he forgot about caring about you. He knew, and posited how to be helpful to those around you but not a lot on how to be helpful to yourself in the long run.

His mind was powerful, it truly was and honestly I wish he were here right now to shed some light to the masses in regards to things we have to deal with every day.


John Schmidt is the web editor at the Collegian. He can be reached at [email protected].