I’ve been blogging for The Huffington Post since 2015 on various aspects of how the humanities can benefit educations in management and public administration at The University of San Francisco. Twice I have featured an example of how one of my students interpreted an Ethical Will assignment as part of a required ethics class in all programs. I decided I would conclude 2017 by making this an annual tradition. To recall, an Ethical Will is an informal document that is often included with people’s estate planning papers. It is a letter to the future, in which you share the relationships, accomplishments, and values that made your life satisfying. This letter takes no special training to write, and does not have to follow any particular format; it is simply an opportunity to tell your beneficiaries what is important to you. I encourage students to think beyond the epistolary form and to exercise their unique creativity in generating a legacy.
To prepare them for this task, students are guided through a series of mediations, readings, podcasts, and videos, all aimed at stimulating their reflection on their lives and how they have come to identify and live their core values. Among the resources students consult is David Foster Wallace’s now famous commencement speech which he delivered at Kenyon College in 2005 “This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life,” covers subjects including “the difficulty of empathy,” “the importance of being well adjusted,” and “the essential lonesomeness of adult life.” Wallace begins with a parable: