My favourite graduation speech (Wear Sunscreen!)

11 05 2009

Graduation speech...


Isn’t it amazing how you can recall specific quotes from a song that you heard years or even decades ago (and may not have heard for years).

I was talking to a friend recently about life, goals, giving and receiving advice and so on, when a quote burst into my mind from a song I listened to and loved in the 90’s. The song was called Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen). It was a big hit when released in ’97 but after 6 months of airplay, I never heard it again. It was, in effect, a “graduation speech” put to music. Do you remember it?

Out of curiosity, I did some research (thanks Wikipedia), and discovered the speech was originally written by columnist Mary Schmich, in the Chicago Tribune in June ‘97. She described it as the speech she would give to a class of graduating students, if she were asked to give one. The essay was then used by Australian film director Baz Luhrmann in his remix of the song “Everybody’s Free” from the film Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, and a hit song was born (apparently the University of Zagreb in Croatia still plays the song at every graduation ceremony).

The words are awesome, and encapsulate some of the simplest and best truths I’ve learnt (and am still learning) in my life journey so far. Lyrics below – enjoy! And be sure to check out the rest of this site for other inspirational thoughts and challenging articles!

–          Quinton


Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

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 p.m. 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 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.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Youtube Link:




8 responses

12 05 2009

Great! I loved that song to and it was very well written!

14 05 2009
Quinton McCauley

Thanks Stephen!
The song def brings back memories – it was a massive inspiration to me when I needed it growing up!


14 05 2009

Oh that brought back old memories!
Hey mate not sure if you have checked out the last lecture, but if you haven’t do check it out! –

14 05 2009
Quinton McCauley

Thanks mate! Didn’t realise these were on Youtube – awesome.

Cheers for dropping by 🙂 have a great day!


17 03 2010
Web Designing Karachi

Congratulation, to you man, Such a nice post

31 05 2010
Quinton McCauley

Thanks mate!

4 01 2011
2010 in review « 1000 Diamonds

[…] My favourite graduation speech (Wear Sunscreen!) May 2009 6 comments 5 […]

17 03 2014
True AND False | by LRose

[…] That graduation speech that drives home the point about wearing sunscreen still […]

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