If you’ve ever read either of Mindy Kaling’s books of essays (“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” and “Why Not Me?”), then you likely know about Kaling’s fondness for her alma mater, Dartmouth College.
She loved college, and especially enjoyed being a big fish in a little pond (or, as she puts it in “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?,” being “freakin’ Jaws in a community swimming pool”).
She cited her involvement in the New Hampshire college’s theater department as “the reason for the inflated sense of self [she has] to this day.” Dartmouth was where her confidence grew, and where she made close, lasting friendships.
So, obviously, as far as Dartmouth commencement speakers go, Kaling was a natural choice.
Thank you @dartmouth, my Alma Mater, for welcoming me back to deliver today’s commencement speech. To say it was an honor is an understatement. #Dartmouth18s (You can watch it here: https://t.co/vd3PSf5Nlp) pic.twitter.com/cQcyOdaRze
— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) June 10, 2018
In her June 10 speech to the graduating class of 2018, Kaling combined witty barbs with practical advice — while also throwing in some inside jokes about the college itself (“Ah, BlitzMail!”) that only Dartmouth students would appreciate.
Of course, a huge benefit of having a comedy writer give the commencement address is that it will be peppered with hilarious tips and cheeky asides.
Kaling gave a nod to her fellow alum, Shonda Rhimes, another successful TV writer and showrunner who gave the Dartmouth commencement speech in 2014. (The text of Rhimes’ address was published in her memoir, “Year Of Yes,” and includes such humorous advice as “Dreams are for losers.”)
Kaling went on to provide some guidance for life in the real world, ranging from job advice (“Remove ‘proficient at Word’ from your resume. That is ridiculous”) to pancake-related wisdom (“Just order one first and then see how you feel later”).
Today, @mindykaling ’01 urged the #Dartmouth18s to be their own biggest cheerleaders and to always ask themselves, “Why not me?” Her full address: https://t.co/CHQ9Jx0Pyt pic.twitter.com/fcoqWaveST
— Dartmouth (@dartmouth) June 10, 2018
Kaling warned that the next year of life for college graduates would be difficult, as they’re “entering a world that we have toppled like a Jenga tower. And we are relying on you to rebuild it.”
The secret to success in such instability, she claimed, was a delusional sense of confidence. “You have to have insane confidence in yourself — even if it’s not real,” she advised. “You need to be your own cheerleader now.”
The most serious part of Kaling’s speech, however, actually echoed the sentiment behind her own memoir title, “Why Not Me?” when she encouraged graduates to ask themselves this very same question when pursuing their goals.
“I was not someone who should have the life I have now, and yet I do,” she said. “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.”
Watch Kaling’s commencement speech in full and perhaps you’ll be inspired to adopt this confidence-boosting mantra, too!