George Saunders’ commencement address at Syracuse University mainly focuses on the importance of being kind. In Saunders’ opinion, being kind is more important than being successful, and it is also what helps people develop mentally and spiritually.

What does kindness mean to you? For example, kindness could mean sacrificing one’s good for the good of others. Kindness could also mean being generous and giving but also forgiving towards oneself and oth…


The importance of being kind

First, Saunders talks about the topic of regret. He talks about the reckless, embarrassing or stupid things he has done but claims he doesn’t regret any of these things. However, he then claims that his deepest regret is not being kind enough towards a former classmate, an awkward girl he calls Ellen.

Then, Saunders discusses his regret at not being kind enough towards other people in his life as well. He also talks about the reasons why people fail to be kind and mostly focuses on selfishness:

Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we be…



Saunders’ speech relies on both direct and indirect argumentation.

Direct argumentation, when Saunders explicitly states his opinion and argument, is used in the following example:

So let me just say this. There are ways. You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter. 

In the example above, Saunders directly states that there are ways to become less selfish and kinder, and he bases his arguments on the experiences he knows the students ha…

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