In 1999, Baz Luhrmann released the single “Wear Sunscreen,” a spoken-word track that offers various pieces of advice to graduates on how to live a happier life and avoid common frustrations. The song comes directly from an essay written as a hypothetical commencement speech by columnist Mary Schmich and was originally published in June 1997 in the “Chicago Tribune.”
Twenty years later, much of the wisdom Schmich imparted still rings true.
The words are a blend of common sense (‘’Wear sunscreen.’’ and ‘’Respect your elders’.’) and some not-so-common sense (‘’Do one thing every day that scares you.’’ and ‘’Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.’’).
But things have changed in the intervening 20 years, some things in ways we could not have imagined.
And so, to the Class of 2019, here are some other bits of poignant advice taken from commencement addresses.
“Try putting your iPhones down every once in awhile and look at people’s faces.” Amy Poehler. Harvard University, 2011.
“The most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity and to not give into peer pressure to try to be something that you’re not.” Ellen DeGeneres, Tulane University, 2009.
“If everybody followed their first dreams in life, the world would be ruled by cowboys and princesses.” Stephen Colbert. Northwestern University, 2011.
“What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded… Sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.” George Saunders. Syracuse University, 2013.
“Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives.” Bill Gates. Harvard University, 2007.
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” Steve Jobs. Stanford University, 2005.
“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made - that you made - and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.” Navy Admiral William H. McRaven University of Texas, 2014.
“One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, right here, right now, in this single, solitary, monumental moment in your life, is to decide, without apology, to commit to the journey, and not to the outcome.” Joyce DiDonato. Juliard School, 2014
Congratulations to the Class of 2019. We are proud of you.