Kurt Vonnegut’s Advice to Graduates
Kurt Vonnegut was a world-famous novelist who wrote works like Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle. He also spoke at many college commencements over the course of his life. For example, he spoke at SUNY Fredonia, SUNY Albany, the University of Chicago, Rice University and many others. In these speeches he addressed relevant topics like the importance of relationships and the importance of remembering where you come from.
Here’s some graduation advice from Kurt Vonnegut:
- “Have academic degrees been a way to become rich and famous in the past? In a few cases. You can no doubt name a handful of celebrities who came from here. But most graduates, any place you care to name, have been of use locally rather than nationally, and have commonly been rewarded with modest amounts of money or fame…In time, this will prove to have been the destiny of most, but not all of you. You will find yourselves building or strengthening your communities. Please love that destiny, if it turns out to be yours – for communities are all that’s substantial about the world.” Rice University, 2001
- “We are so lonely because we don’t have enough friends and relatives. Human beings are supposed to live in stable, like-minded, extended families of fifty people or more. Your class spokesperson mourned the collapse of the institution of marriage in this country. Marriage is collapsing because our families are too small. A man cannot be a whole society to a woman, and a woman cannot be a whole society to a man. We try, but it is scarcely surprising that so many of us go to pieces.” SUNY Fredonia, 1978
- “I thank you for being educated…We, whose principal achievement is that we are older than you, have to acknowledge at last that you are grown-ups, too…I apologize because of the terrible mess the planet is in. But it has always been a mess. There have never been any ‘Good Old Days,’ there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, ‘Don’t look at me, I just got here myself.’ So you know what I’m going to do? I declare everybody here a member of Generation A. Tomorrow is another day for all of us.” Syracuse University, 1994
- “Some of you won’t stay home. But please don’t forget where you came from. I never did. Notice when you’re happy, and when you’ve got enough.” Butler University, 1996
- “I suggest to you that you set as your goals the putting of some small part of the planet into something like safe and sane and decent order. There’s a lot of cleaning up to do. There’s a lot of rebuilding to do, both spiritual and physical. And again, there’s going to be a lot of happiness. Don’t forget to notice!” Butler University, 1996
If you would like to read more advice from Vonnegut, his speeches are compiled in the book If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?
Congratulations to all 2018 graduates from the TFP team!