A Vonnegut Graduation Like No Other: Take Two!

By Gracie Phillips, KVML 2020 Summer Intern

The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library (KVML) kicked off its second virtual graduation party once again with a warm welcome and an introduction from KVML CEO and Founder Julia Whitehead, followed by an introduction and a few words from Dan Simon of Seven Stories Press.

KVML CEO Julia Whitehead introduces the readers and supporters at Tuesday’s ceremony.

Special guests for Tuesday evening’s ceremony included novelist Russell Banks, journalist David Brancaccio, and novelist and playwright Kia Corthron, who took turns reading from Kurt Vonnegut’s commencement speech, “Don’t Forget Where You Come From” as well as two other short commentaries. The speeches are included in a new paperback collection, If This Isn’t Nice What Is?, available at the KVML gift shop and a great present for graduates this May.

Following the readings, local jazz musician Rob Dixon opened with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” in celebration of “a big birthday” for Brancaccio on May 17. Dixon then played an original composition he wrote while sheltering at home during the COVID-19 crisis. Comedian Lewis Black wrapped up the evening reading the names of eight graduating seniors in attendance from around the country. And he left viewers, particularly the graduates, with a word of advice: “Pick up any Vonnegut book. Any one, and read it. It will tell you something you should know right now.”

At the end of the broadcast, KVML replayed a segment from David Brancaccio’s interview with Vonnegut in 2005. Click here to view a portion of this delightful interview.

The next graduation ceremony takes place next Tuesday, May 19 at 7 pm EST. Join novelist Paul Auster; writer, musician, and Kurt Vonnegut’s son Mark VonnegutA’Lelia Bundles, author of Self Madeoriginally published as On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker about her great-great-grandmother Madam C.J. Walker; Suzanne McConnell, author of Pity The Reader; graphic writer Ryan North (who is currently adapting Slaughterhouse-Five); and author Dan Wakefield  for a round-table reading of another commencement speech Kurt Vonnegut once delivered titled “How Music Cures Our Ills (and there are lots of them).” These speeches are collected in a new paperback edition of If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?, edited by Wakefield.

Comedian Lewis Black will read part of the graduation speech and will announce the names of the week’s graduates, musician Ethan Hodes will perform, and Anderson University 2020 graduate Mariah Murray will read a poem.

The Tuesday, May 26 final graduation will feature musical duo Kat Wallace and David Sasso, writer Lee Stringer (who collaborated with Vonnegut on the book, Like Shaking Hands with God), and other literary celebs. Join us!


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