Vonnegut Sez: "Sunscreen"

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Fred Burke

Jul 31, 1997, 3:00:00 AM7/31/97

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**Deep Thoughts, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.**

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 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 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.


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 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.


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

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.


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Fred Burke

Aug 2, 1997, 3:00:00 AM8/2/97

Fred Burke (fbu...@best.com) wrote:
: ooooo ooo ooooooooooo ooooooooooooo

: __ `888b. `8' `888' `8 8' 888 `8
: |__ _ _ _| _ _ _|_|_ _ 8 `88b. 8 888 888
: | (_)|_|| |(_| (_)| | | | |(/_ 8 `88b. 8 888ooo8 888
: ==================================== 8 `88b.8 888 " 888 ====
: 8 `888 888 o 888
: o8o `8 o888oooood8 o888o

: **Deep Thoughts, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.**

: Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97:

: Wear sunscreen.

>From alt.books.kurt-vonnegut:

WYADUCK here...

There is a commencement address that Vonnegut allegedly delivered to MIT
this June, which has been spreading all over the Web like wildfire. (It
even got posted to this Vonnegut Newsgroup.)

I was suspicious from the begining. Kurt usually tells me when he's going
to speak somewhere, and he never mentioned an MIT address. I also knew he
was in Europe for the latter part of June.

More suspiciously, the voice wasn't quite his. It was CLOSE, like a real
good painted forgery of a master, but it was slightly off -- a little too
jokey, a little too cute... a little too "Seinfeld." Several things seemed
based on ideas of his, or variations on things he's said in past speeches,
but the further I read, the more I thought it was a fake.

So I called him today (7/31) and asked if he spoke at MIT this year. "No,"
he said. "You're asking about the 'sunscreen' thing?" He had already known
about it, as his lawyer had called him earlier in the day. He had no idea
where it came from. I asked him if he wanted me to fax him a copy. He
declined. He wasn't interested.

So there it is, straight from the horse's mouth (brought to you by the
other end). If you doubt what I've said here, call MIT's Speaker's Bureau,
and ask if KV spoke there this year.


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