Break the Chain Wear Sunscreen

Created 9/3/2003 (9/3/2003) One constant on the Internet is that even the most thoughtful and entertaining piece of writing seems somewhat more compelling if we believe we know where it came from. When the source is purportedly a world-renowned author, all the better.


This is the speech that Kurt Vonnegut (author) gave to the graduating class at MIT:

Ladies and gentlemen:

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

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.

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 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you...


Kurt Vonnegut did not deliver this speech at MIT, nor any other school. Nor has anyone else. In fact, it's not really a speech at all.

The text above comes from a June 1, 1997, Chicago Tribune column by Mary Schmich. It is Schmich's witty and humorous take on the graduation speech we'd all like to make if given the opportunity. - free web hosting. Free hosting with no banners.
Almost immediately, the piece became a hot forward on the Internet. Unfortunately, an early forwarder decided it would be more compelling if it appeared to be the work of Vonnegut, versus that of an unknown newspaper columnist. The attribution stuck and created considerable furor over the witty presentation's origins.

If some of the advice seems familiar, you may have heard it in musical form. It was set to music by film director Baz Luhrman ("William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet," "Strictly Ballroom") in 1997. "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" was an instant hit in Australia and spent several weeks in 1998 and 1999 on the Billboard Top 100 chart in the U.S.

Schmich's original column is copyrighted material and the property of the Chicago Tribune. That is why I have not reproduced it in its entirety here, and why you should not forward it via e-mail. To read it in its original context, visit the references below. Break this chain.

What Do You Think?

Category: General Junk
References: Urban Legends Zeitgeist, Baz Luhmann, Chicago Tribune

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