This Year’s Commencement Hit

Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art speech to Philadelphia’s University of the Arts’ 2012 graduating class became a viral hit. Released in book form (HarperCollins/Morrow) this week, it is rising on Amazon.

John Green’s speech to the graduating class of Butler University may not be far behind.

Predating both of them is David Foster Wallace’s speech to Kenyon College in 2005, a viral success later released in book form, This Is Water(Hachette/Little,Brown). Recently, a short film based on the original was posted to YouTube and has been viewed nearly 5 million times in just ten days.



The “raining-on-the-parade” genre may have begun with a speech that wasn’t actually a speech. It was column by Mary Schmich in the Chicago Tribune in 1997 about what she would say if she had been asked to give a commencement address (which she hadn’t). An urban legend grew up that this was actually a speech given by Kurt Vonnegut at an MIT graduation. Vonnegut ruefully said he wished that were true, but it wasn’t. The column ended up being published as a gift book by Andrews and McMeel as Wear Sunscreen (the one piece of advice that Shmich found irrefutable) and re-released in a 10th anniversay edition in 2008. Baz Lurhmann turned it into a music video “Everyone’s Free to Wear Sunscreen.”

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