The Commencement Speech I Never Heard

Kurt Vonnegut’s Commencement Address to Butler University, 1999

My Uncle Alex Vonnegut, an insurance salesman who lived at 5033 North Pennsylvania, taught me something very important. He said that when things are going really well we should
be sure to notice it. He was talking about very simple occasions, not great victories. Maybe drinking lemonade under a shade tree, or smelling the aroma of a bakery, or fishing, or listening to music coming from a concert hall while standing in the dark outside, or, dare I say, after a kiss. He told me that it was important at such times to say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?” Uncle Alex […] thought it was a terrible waste to be happy and not notice it. So do I.

You have been called “Generation X.” You’re as much Generation A as Adam and Eve were. As I read the book of Genesis, God didn’t give Adam and Eve the whole planet. He gave them a manageable piece of property, for the sake of discussion let’s say two acres. I suggest to you Adams and Eves 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!

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