This is the text of the commencement address given by author Kurt

Vonnegut, Jr. to the 1997 graduating class at MIT.

 

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97:

 

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. 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 lookback 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 imagine.

 

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.

 

Sing.

 

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

who are reckless with yours.

 

Floss.

 

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

yourself.

 

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.

 

Stretch.

 

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 else's.

 

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.

 

Travel.

 

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.