Laughter is the Best Medicine

Dartmouth’s 2018 Commencement Address by Mindy Kaling ’01

– Good morning. (audience cheers) (laughs) To the class of 2018,
the faculty, the parents, the grandparents, fellow honorees, and the paid laughers I have scattered throughout the audience, (audience laughs) it is an honor to join you this morning for this special occasion. It is also an honor to speak to you today from behind this gigantic tree stump. (audience laughs) Like some sort of female
Lorax with an advanced degree. That’s right, you guys, I’m
hitting Dr. Seuss hard and early in this speech. Because Dartmouth grads
have a privilege unique among all the Ivy League, we will be forced to be
mini experts on Dr. Seuss for our entire lives. On my deathbed, I’ll
be saying “Did you know “that his real name was Theodor Geisel? “Did you know that he was the editor “of the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern?” And yes, while no US presidents
have gone to Dartmouth, we can at least lay claim
to the wonderful Dr. Seuss. Another notable alumnus
is Salmon P. Chase, the man on the $10,000 bill, a symbolically powerful piece of paper that’s largely useless in the real world. Like a degree in playwriting, which I received from
this very institution. (audience laughs) Thank you for paying
for that, Mom and Dad. It’s a thrill to be back
here in New Hampshire, the Granite State, known for two things. The place where you can
legally not wear your seatbelt and Adam Sandler’s birthplace. New Hampshire has one of the
best mottos of any state. Live free or die. For outsiders, it sounds
like an exciting declaration of freedom, but when
you’re here in January, die actually sounds like
a pretty good option. (audience laughs) I remember the days when it was so cold, your sneeze would become an ice sculpture before it hit the ground. (audience laughs) In Los Angeles, where I live now, if I sneeze, I just call my doctor and have my blood replaced with that of a teenage track star. (audience laughs) That’s normal there. I’m mostly track star right now. Before I get any further, I should actually
probably clarify who I am for the parents and
grandparents in the audience who are thinking to themselves “Who is this loud Indian woman? “Is that the girl from Quantico? “She looks so much worse in person.” (audience laughs) No, no, I’m not Priyanka Chopra. Not even Padma Lakshmi. I’m the other Indian woman we have allowed to be on television, Mindy Kaling. (audience applauds) Thank you, thank you. You may remember me from my role on The Office as Kelly Kapoor, who internet commenters
said was, quote, “shrill.” (audience laughs) And, quote, “Took up valuable
time that could have gone “to Steve Carell.” I then created and
starred in my own TV show, The Mindy Project. (audience applauds) Thank you, thank you very much. It was an uphill battle to
get that show on the air but it was worth it, because it enabled me to become Dartmouth’s most successful female minority show creator
who has spoken at commencement. (audience laughs) Oh wait, no. Shonda Rhimes went here. (audience laughs) Yep, and she’s created
like 10 more shows than me, so great, no, cool. Cool, cool, cool, Shonda,
friggin’ role model, good for you. (audience laughs) But today is not about famous alumni. No, no. It is about the men and women
who have toiled in obscurity for years so that they
might better our country. I speak, of course, of
the 51% of Dartmouth grads who will go into finance. (audience laughs) Highest in the Ivy League. Look left, look right. All three of you will be
spending at least 10 years in a white collar prison. (audience laughs) I know that going into the
real world sounds scary but it’s exciting too. Finally, you’ll be in
control of your own lives. No longer will there be an
irrational board of trustees telling you you can’t have
hard liquor on campus. (audience laughs) Thank you. For the ridiculous reason that
they don’t want you to die. Come tomorrow, no one can stop you from filling your
apartment with 4.99 handles of Uncle Satan’s Unfiltered Potato Vodka. Go crazy. It’s a real moment of reflection for me to be standing here
speaking to all of you now because it makes me
hearken back to my own time at my Dartmouth graduation. Madeleine Albright was
my commencement speaker. And while I don’t remember
any specific quotes she said or even a general gist of
what she was talking about, (audience laughs) I do remember thinking “I
wonder what it’ll be like “to have my own cell phone.” How things have changed. (audience laughs) For all I know, at this very moment, most of you are posting this speech on your Instagram stories with a GIF of Winnie the Pooh twerking. (audience laughs) If you are, please at least
use my official hashtag, #MindyGoesBigGreen2018. Thank you. (audience applauds) I bet none of you remember
a time before the internet. Hell, you probably don’t
even remember a time before the Facebook page
Dartmouth Memes for Cold AF Teens. (audience cheers) Yeah, yeah, I know about that. Made me feel like a real
creep researching it. Hello, I’m a 38 year old woman who wants to join your
teen Facebook group. It’s for research, I swear. Meanwhile, while I was in college, we didn’t even have Google. You wanted to find out, say,
how tall Ben Affleck was, you were out of luck. You just had to sit there not knowing and your entire day would be ruined. (audience laughs) Or say I wanted to meet up with a friend. I couldn’t just text her,
I had to walk outside and hope I accidentally bumped into her. Or I Blitzed her. Ah, BlitzMail. You know that feeling you have when you tell your friends that you Blitz and they don’t get it and
roll your eyes all smug like “Oh, it’s a Dartmouth thing.” That ends today. (audience laughs) You try to say Blitz 100 yards east of White River Junction and
you will get laughed back to your one room triple in the Choates. (audience laughs) Fun fact. In 2001, the year I graduated, a pink eye epidemic broke
out amongst my classmates because we were all using
public BlitzMail iMac terminals and not washing our hands. Those are just kind of
sexy stories indicative of my time at Dartmouth. You have so many cool new things here now. Like look at the new logo, the D-Pine. It’s beautiful. It reminds me of what
college age Mindy thought a marijuana weed might look like but I was too scared to actually find out. (audience laughs) And this new house system,
it sounds really cool. It’s so Hogwarts-y. You know, you sorted into
your little Gryffindors and Ravenclaws, except
they’re called South House, West House, School House. (audience laughs) Okay, come on, guys, School House, really? We’re just saying what we see? That’s the laziest name
I’ve ever heard in my life and I spent over a decade working
on shows called The Office and The Mindy Project. (audience laughs) Still, I remember sitting
where you’re sitting. I was so full of questions
like “When is thing gonna end?” and “How many friends
can I invite to dinner “and still have Mom and Dad pay?” And most importantly, “Why
didn’t I wear any clothes “underneath my gown?” (audience laughs) Now we’re reaching the part of the speech where I’m supposed to tell
you something uplifting, like follow your dreams. In general, advice isn’t
actually an effective way to change your life. If all it took to make your life great was hearing amazing advice, then everyone who watched TED
Talks would be a millionaire. So don’t trust any one story
of how to become successful. As Madeleine Albright
said at my commencement… See, I don’t remember
anything and I do just fine. So here is some practical advice. (audience laughs) That you may or may not remember
at the end of the speech because, hey, that’s the gig. One. First off, remove “proficient
at Word” from your resume. That is ridiculous. You’re really scraping
the bottom of the barrel of competency there. This is how you become proficient at Word. You open Word on your computer. (audience laughs) Two. Most of your post-college life
is simply filling out forms. Car insurance, health
insurance, W2s, W4s, 1099s. Guess what? None of us know what
any of those forms mean but you will fill out 100
of them before you die. (audience laughs) Three. You never need more than one pancake. Trust me on this. Cartoons have trained
us to want a giant stack of those bad boys, but order one first and then just see how you feel later. (audience laughs) This one is just for guys. When you go on dates, act as if every woman you’re
talking to is a reporter for an online publication
that you are scared of. (audience laughs) One shouldn’t need the
threat of public exposure and scorn to treat women well, but if that’s what it’s gonna take, fine. Date like everyone’s
watching, because we are. (audience laughs) Five, and this might
be the most important. Buy a toilet plunger. Trust me on this, don’t wait
until you need a plunger to buy a plunger. (audience laughs) Commencement is a time of
transition for parents too. That empty nest you were
enjoying these past four years? Gone as soon as the speech is over. I hope you like full time
lodgers who don’t pay rent, don’t do laundry, eat all
the food in your fridge, and binge Family Guy
on your sofa for weeks. That is your life now. Although some of your graduates will be making more money than you. 51%, to be exact. (audience laughs) And to the parents of
those investment bankers, consultants, and hedge fund
analysts, congratulations. Your kids will be fabulously wealthy but still somehow sharing
your cell phone plan because it, quote,
“saves everybody money.” Okay, now let’s get real. Let me rip off the Band-Aid
for all of you, the 18s. The next year of your
life is going to be bad. You have been in the
comfortable fleece-lined room of Mother Dartmouth for four years now and you’re gonna go out
in the cold, hard world. Out there in the real world, there will be a target on your back. People will want to
confirm their expectations of Ivy League graduates,
that you’re a jerk, that you’re spoiled, that you
use the word summer as a verb. (audience laughs) Though stereotypes exist for a reason. I mean, come on, the guy
from the $10,000 bill went to this school. You’re graduating into
a world where it seems like everything is falling apart. Trust in institutions are at a record low, the truth doesn’t seem to matter anymore, and for all I know the
President just tweeted us into a war with Wakanda, a
country that doesn’t exist. (audience laughs) So, class of 2018, you
are entering a world that we have toppled like a Jenga tower and we are relying on you to rebuild it. But how can you do that with the knowledge that things are so unstable out there? I’ll tell you my secret, the one thing that has kept
me going through the years, my super power. Delusion. (audience laughs) This is something I may
share with our president, a fact that is both
horrifying and interesting. (audience laughs) Two years in, I think
we can pretty safely say that he’s not getting
carved onto Mount Rushmore but damn if that is not a testament to how far you can get
by just by believing that you are the smartest,
most successful person in the world. My point is, you have to have
insane confidence in yourself, even if it’s not real. You need to be your own cheerleader now because there isn’t a room
full of people waiting with pom poms to tell you “You did it! “We’ve been waiting all this
time for you to succeed!” So I’m giving you permission
to root for yourself. And while you’re at it, root
for those around you too. It took me a long time to realize that success isn’t a zero sum game, which leads me to the
next part of my remarks. I thought I might take a
second to speak to the ladies in the audience. Guys, take a break. You don’t have to pay
attention during this part. Maybe spend the next 30 seconds thinking about all the extra money
you’ll make in your life for doing the same job as a woman. Pretty sweet. (audience laughs) Hey, girls. We need to do a better job
of supporting each other. (audience applauds) I know that I am guilty of it too. We live in a world where it
seems like there’s only room for one of us at the table. So when another woman shows up, we think “Oh my god, she’s
gonna take the one woman spot. “That was supposed to be mine.” But that’s just what certain
people want us to do. Wouldn’t it be better
if we worked together to dismantle a system that makes us feel like there’s limited room for us? Because when women work together, we can accomplish anything, even stealing the world’s most
expensive diamond necklace from the Met Gala, like in Ocean’s Eight, a movie starring me which
opens in theaters June 8th. (audience laughs) And to that end, women, don’t be ashamed to toot your own horn like I just did. Okay, guys, you can listen again. You didn’t miss much. Just remember to see Ocean’s Eight, now playing in theaters nationwide. Ocean’s Eight, every con has its pros. (audience laughs) Now I wanted to share
a little bit about me, Mindy Kaling, the Dartmouth student. When I came to Hanover
in the fall of 1997, I was as many of you were. Driven, bright, ambitious, and really, really into
the Black Eyed Peas. (audience laughs) I arrived here as a 17 year
old, took the lay of the land, and immediately began making a checklist of everything I wanted to accomplish. I told myself that by the
time I graduated in 2001, I would have checked them all off. And here is my freshman fall checklist. Be on Hanover Crew, be on Launch Crew. – [Man] Yeah! – Be in an acapella group,
be in an improv troupe, write a play that’s
performed at the Bentley, and do a cartoon for the D. And try to be in a cool senior society. Guess what? I completed that checklist. But before you think, “Wait,
why is this woman just bragging “about her accomplishments
from 17 years ago?” Keep listening. Then I graduated and I made a new checklist for my 20s. Get married by 27, have kids at 30, win an Oscar, be the
star of my own TV show, host the MTV Music Awards. This was 2001, guys, it
made more sense then. (audience laughs) And do it all while being a size two. Well, spoiler alert, I’ve
only done one of those things and I’m not sure I will
ever do the others. And that is a really scary feeling, knowing how far that I’ve
strayed from the person that I was hoping to be when I was 21. I will tell you a personal story. After my daughter was born in December, I remember bringing her home and being in my house with
her for the first time, thinking “Huh, according to movies and TV, “this is traditionally
the time when my mother “and spouse are supposed to be here, “sharing this experience with me.” And I looked around and I had neither. And for a moment, it was kind of scary, like can I do this by myself? But then that feeling went away because the reality is I’m
not doing it by myself. I’m surrounded by family and friends who love and support me. And the joy I feel from being
with my daughter Katherine eclipses anything from
any crazy checklist. So I just want to tell you guys, don’t be scared if you don’t
do things in the right order or if you don’t do some things at all. I didn’t think I’d have a
child before I got married but hey, it turned out that way and I wouldn’t change a thing. I didn’t think I’d have
dessert before breakfast today but hey, it turned out that way and I wouldn’t change a thing. (audience laughs) So if I could impart
any advice, it’s this. If you have a checklist, good for you. Structured ambition can
sometimes be motivating. But also, feel free to let it go. Yes, my culminating advice
from my speech is a song from the Disney animated movie Frozen. (audience laughs) I’ve covered a lot of ground today, not all of it was serious, but I wanted to leave you with this. I was not someone who should
have the life I have now and yet I do. I was sitting in the chair you are literally sitting in right now and I just whispered “Why not me?” And I kept whispering it for 17 years and here I am, someone that
this school deemed worthy enough to speak to you at your commencement. Don’t let anyone tell you
that you can’t do something, but especially not yourself. Go conquer the world. Just remember this. Why not you? You made it this far. Thank you very much and congratulations to the class of 2018. (audience applauds)

100 thoughts on “Dartmouth’s 2018 Commencement Address by Mindy Kaling ’01

  1. Thanks MOM for sharing! I find it helpful to look back on my past when I think I can't do something. I remind myself of what was, and hope that will be okay! Thanks Mindy and Dartmouth

  2. Anyone watching whats going on in Thailand where the 12 young boys are stuck in a cave and unable to come out?

    ONE IMPORTANT THING TO NOTE! It's Patriarchy that is trying to save the kids. Yes. Men are out there risking their lives to save people, NO WOMEN! so feminists should now go make the men some sandwich and then STFU. 😛

  3. You only ever need one pancake?? Lol girl u never met me 🥞 😍 I can eat a whole stack I love them so much<33333

  4. She's a piece of shit man hater. Fuck that sjw bitch. Will never watch any of her work again. Because I'm a white Male

  5. Mindy k is racist, really look at what she just said about her terrible oceans eight movie
    Because the movie sucked she said it was because of racism, really. How irresponsible I use to like her but after making that kind of comment it showed her true colors. The movie is doing bad because it sucked

  6. Don’t wait to buy a plunger until you need one. Just go ahead and get one. 😂😂😂 please be my commencement speaker.

  7. Jerks. Money?
    More idiots. Romantic. She put her hand on his leg. He later put his hand on her loins. Sick.
    Police chief 86? Alan Norton, CO. A-'s.

  8. I live literally 20 minutes away from Dartmouth (grew up here my Whole childhood and still live around here) and my gram was one of the first people ever (with others) to make computer programs for Dartmouth when computers first became a thing, and she started wayyyy back decades ago obviously. She’s retired now. But damn I wish I was there during this.

  9. Why have pretty much all of the actors on the office do commencement speeches at Ivy League schools?

  10. I love Mindy Kaling, her mention of paid laughter in audiences, love the Dr.Suess and the tree mention and the degree of playwriting and sneeze become an ice sculpture
    And open Word document
    Act as if every woman is a reporter of an online publication your scared of
    Buy a plunger, Mindy is as always so funny
    I love her genuine humour

  11. That is one ugly fucking fat disgusting blob Mini kaling is a fat Brown piece of shit Porker…. she looks like a big fat talking turd💩

  12. Stop telling women they are not going to be successful without a hand up. It’s not true and I’m a lot older and know firsthand.

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