Stephen King: Scaring You to Action

America's self-dubbed 'scary guy' offers his ideas for improving the world and ourselves.

Excerpted from a speech delivered by Stephen King at the Vassar College commencement, May 20, 2001.

I have to tell you the scary truth, because that's my job. You know the old proverb, don't you, about the woman who carries the drowning scorpion across the raging stream? Once they're on the other side, it stings her and as she staggers to her knees, dying, she reproaches it for ingratitude. "C'mon lady," it says, "you knew I was a scorpion when you picked me up." And you knew I was the scary guy when you picked me for this job, so deal with it.

Stephen King's Favorite Charities


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That human life is brief when placed in time's wider perspective is something we all know. I am asking you to consider it on a more visceral level, that's all.

What will you do? Well, I'll tell you one thing you're not going to do, and that's take it with you. I'm worth I don't exactly know how many millions of dollars--I'm still in the Third World compared to Bill Gates, but on the whole I'm doing OK--and a couple of years ago I found out what "you can't take it with you" means. I found out while I was lying in the ditch at the side of a country road, covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans like the branch of a tree taken down in a thunderstorm. I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you're lying in the ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard.

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