FileTitle: Prose2031.html
Category: Humor
Type: Prose
Description: Sunscreen Commencement Speech
Subject: The Sunscreen Commencement Speech 

This is a version of proposed commencement address written by Mary
Schmich, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, 1997. In the world of
urban legend the speech is most often attributed to Kurt Vonnegut
and MIT is cited most often as the place it was presented.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be

The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists,
whereas The rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own
meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not
understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But
trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and
recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before
you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as
effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble
gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never
crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some
idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people
Who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes
you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed
in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your
life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they
wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-
olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when
they're gone. 

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe
you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky
chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.

Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate
yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of
what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll
ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them. Do not read beauty
magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for
good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past
and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand
that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on.

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the
older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were
young. Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.
Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will
philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize
that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were
noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders. Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe
you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you
never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will
look 85. Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those
who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way
of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over
the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen..