Here’s a literary gem for your Monday morning. This “commencement speech” has been erroneously contributed to Kurt Vonnegut, when in reality it originated with a 1997 Chicago Tribune article by Mary Schmich, entitled, “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young.” Vonnegut, who never spoke the words at a commencement, has been quoted saying he would have been proud to have written the “speech.” The Australian film director Baz Luhrmann adopted Schmich’s article in his video “Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen)” (1999), which begins with the words “ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99,” perpetuating the speech-rumor associated with Schmich’s article. Originally doubtful that he would receive permission to use Vonnegut’s words, Luhrmann was happy to learn that they were, in fact, not Vonnegut’s, and had no problem adapting them with Schmich’s permission. “Everybody’s free (to wear scunscreen)” is set to the popular song “Everybody’s free to feel good” (Rozalla, 1991), emphasizing the connotation that the advice in the speech/article will bring happiness.
So, while you are free to engulf your life in self-doubt, the desire to please others, body shaming, self-belittling, the desire for things, or whatever other demon with which you may have begun your week, I invite you to hear this advice which, in the words of Mary Schmich herself, is really just nostalgia. Let it go, dance, and always wear sunscreen.