Good evening. I’d like to begin with a short quote I found from A. A.

Milne: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” The past two years here in the Associate in Arts program have truly been an irreplaceable college experience for me, but that’s because of all the unique people and their hilarious antics. For example, just a few weeks ago George wore a full-body green morph suit to class, just to have Dr. Peasnall completely ignore him. Or Dr. Colwell’s story about the structure of a comedy, which would not be complete without her use of that humorous accent. And how could I ever forget Jon omitting the first three letters of “assassination” on his history quiz (while explaining the cause of World War I), resulting in a predictably sarcastic response from Dr. Underhill stating that “assination” “sounds painful.” Of course, there have been some serious moments, too, maybe a lecture every now and then, or the music colloquium and student-faculty mixer, where we got to enjoy many of our own talented musicians perform. But most of all, I’ll never forget the wonderful professors who, besides being brilliant, genuinely care about their students, some even going so far as to mock them in front of the entire class. Everything about the last two years has been nothing short of amazing. Last week, when I found out that I would have to speak tonight, I had no idea what I wanted to say. In an attempt to find inspiration, I met with Mrs. Tanner, who offered me two things, the first being her favorite story: Walter the Farting Dog, and the other being David Foster Wallace’s speech “This is Water.” Much to Mrs. Tanner’s disappointment, I was unable to learn anything useful from Walter and his condition. I did, however, take a couple things away from “This Is Water.” David Foster Wallace begins his speech with this anecdote: “There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys. How's the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’” Wallace goes on to explain that “The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk

about.” Later on, he adds, “Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.” Both of these points made me think. What things are important in life? And how can we choose to control our thoughts? These questions are probably best left to the great philosophers, and I make no assertions about being one, but today I’m going to try to derive an answer to these questions, be it from a much humbler source. So, in the spirit of Walt Disney’s view that “Adults are only kids grown up, anyways,” I shall enlist the help of the anthropomorphic characters of A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh for the remainder of my speech to help illustrate Wallace’s ideas. In “This Is Water,” David Foster Wallace argues that it’s our natural self-centered default setting that makes us miserable, so where better to begin my analogy than with everyone’s favorite sarcastic and cynical donkey: Eeyore. Although his misery makes him lovable, I doubt anyone wants to grow up to be like Eeyore; after all, he lives alone in his “gloomy place, [which is] rather boggy and sad.” But with some effort, we can avoid falling into some of the pitfalls that he does. For instance, A. A. Milne wrote, “You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” So don’t be like Eeyore. Don’t sit around moping all day. Go out into the world. However, the world can be a scary place, and many of us may feel uncertain, even intimidated by what’s to come in the future, but, like Piglet, we too can face our fear of the unknown. Even though “It is hard to be brave, when you're only a Very Small Animal,” Piglet was able to overcome his fears with help from his friends. So next time you feel discouraged, remember Christopher Robin’s words: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” The next two characters I’d like you to consider are Tigger and Rabbit. Tigger’s optimism and zest for life are certainly worthy characteristics, but he has one flaw: He doesn’t look before he leaps. This often gets him into trouble, like when he decides to bounce himself up to the top of the tallest tree,

only to realize that Tiggers are afraid of heights. Opposed to Tigger’s carefree whimsy is Rabbit’s structure and order. Everything in Rabbit’s life is carefully put into place; he likes to have his house and garden perfect, and unexpected visitors are not welcome, especially not Tigger. In this respect, Rabbit is very much a fussbudget — he’s too concerned with trivial details to fully enjoy and appreciate life, which causes him to miss out on a lot. Learn from them, or as Wallace put it, “construct meaning from [their] experience,” only not quite so extreme. Embrace Tigger’s enthusiasm and energy, but tone it down with Rabbit’s reason and rationality. Finally, there is the simplest character of them all, Winnie the Pooh himself. After all, “when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain” who is “stuffed with fluff” there isn’t much more to life than friends and honey. Although Pooh Bear may not be the brightest, and there are many things that he doesn’t understand, what he does know is the importance of enjoying friends, family, and life itself. I think that the brilliance of his simplicity is best illustrated in this brief passage: “‘Well,’ said Pooh, ‘what I like best,’ and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” Pooh gets it. Wallace said that the most important realities are hard to see and even harder to describe. If by intentionally adjusting our attitudes, we can consciously shift our perspective of the world, then what’s a better way to do this than with Winnie the Pooh and his friends? Not only can they teach us how to have a better attitude and outlook on life, but we can also see what’s most important, too. And it’s not money, looks, or power, because as Wallace said, those things, those “default settings,” will “eat you alive.” So as we move on to the next stage of our education, don’t forget about your friends, family, God, or whomever you may have a relationship with, because in my opinion, remembering that

you are loved is the most important thing. Secondly, Wallace says, “The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death,” so don’t forget to enjoy it. Take a break from your hectic, chaotic life to stop, spend time with those who love you, and remind yourself, “This is water.” Bearing all of that in mind, I have one final quote for you from A. A. Milne: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That's why we call it the present.” Thank you.

—Tianna Hutchins, University of Delaware Associate in Arts Program, May 2013

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