". . . my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience . . ."

  • Song Found On:
    Something For Everybody,
  • The supposed chain of events surrounding the creation of the song, Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen), aka "Sunscreen", is an interesting story in itself. In 1998 a student found the 1997 Mary Schmich column in the Chicago Tribune in which she gave advice to her audience in the style of a graduation speech. The student sent it via the internet all over world, gave the authorship credit to Kurt Vonnegut, and said it was a commencement address given by Vonnegut at MIT. Movie director Baz Luhrmann discovered this internet work just when he happened to be doing a remix of a 1992 dance hit "Everybody's Free (To Feel Good)." Luhrmann immediately saw some possibilities and, within one day, he hired an actor to read the text against a remixed musical background and the song was born.


column by
Mary Schmich (1997)
song by
Baz Luhrmann (1999)


Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of '99 . . .

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 nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have 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're 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 bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing everyday 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 the 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 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 . . . what ever 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 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 in your own 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 are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go,but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography in lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew 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 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 it's 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 it for more than it"s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen . . .