If you were graduating from university or college and a famous alum was brought back to deliver the commencement speech, who would you want it to be? Someone like Oprah Winfrey, who will impart all kinds of wisdom? A late night talk show host, who brings the laughs every night so it’s guaranteed to be hilarious? What about someone who can do all of that? Someone like Mindy Kaling.
The actress, writer and creator of The Mindy Project returned to her New Hampshire roots and brought the campus down during her speech at the Dartmouth 2018 graduation on Sunday. She had a bit of everything, for everyone. Her 17-minute address was packed with jokes and fond, wistful memories and judging by the laughter from the students, faculty, parents, family members and onlookers, Mindy was well-received.
But it wasn’t always fun and games. Kaling had some sage advice for the grads that make total sense to us grown-ups now. Because she has a point; “proficient at Word” should no longer be a thing on resumés. And everyone should have a toilet plunger on hand. You never know what’s going to happen.
Mindy doled out dating advice for the guys, telling them to “act as if every woman you’re talking to is a reporter for an online publication that you are scared of. 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.” Wise words.
And speaking of wisdom, Kaling had something to say to the young women: that we need to start supporting one another, lifting each other up because, while we live in a world where it seems there’s only room for one of us at the table, we need to instead work on dismantling a system that makes us feel like there’s limited room for us. “Because when women work together we can accomplish anything.” So damn inspiring — but only made funnier when she went on to promote Ocean’s Eight.
Mindy got even more personal, talking about her six-month-old daughter, Katherine, saying, “I remember bringing her home and being in my house with her for the first time and 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?'” Scary indeed.
But she continued by saying the feeling eventually went away, and she has the love and support of family and friends, and that it’s OK to do things out of order, or not do some things at all. Checklists can be good but they don’t have to be everything.
Mindy concluded by giving the grads hope for the future. “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.”
You gotta love her. Mindy’s words were the perfect combination of witty and wise, yet oh-so-practical, just the things these kids need to hear. Can she please write all the commencement speeches going forward?