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Mindy Kaling Gave the Absolute Best Commencement Speech of the Year

Mindy Kaling can do anything. She’s an actor. She’s a writer. She’s a director. She’s a published author. She’s a TV show creator. And now she’s a graduation speech giver.

On Sunday, Kaling delivered the 2018 Dartmouth commencement speech. As an alumna of the New Hampshire-based Ivy League college and with all that success and experience under her belt, she probably felt some pressure to deliver inspiring words of wisdom to the class of 2018, all while making them laugh. Well, mission accomplished.

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She gave one of the best commencement speeches we’ve heard all year. She was funny (no surprise, whatsoever), inserted pop-culture references, slammed the current president of the United States and even joked about herself, including being one of the few famous Indian women currently on American television.

“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,'” she said. “No, no, I’m not Priyanka Chopra, not even Padma Lakshmi. I am the other Indian woman we’ve allowed to be on television, Mindy Kaling.”


For a good portion of her speech, Kaling told a lot of jokes, which she did extremely well. She had most everyone laughing, because that’s what she does best. What she said and how she said it will make you wish you’d had someone as amazing as Kaling speaking during your college graduation ceremony.

“Now we’re reaching the part of the speech where I’m supposed to tell you something uplifting, like ‘Follow your dreams,'” she said at one point. And just when you thought Kaling was going to get all serious, she continued with the jokes. “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 did just fine.”

More: Mindy Kaling’s Baby’s Favorite Place Is Oprah’s House, Because Obviously

Then, she provided some advice in the form of a list that she deems helpful once anyone enters the real world. The list is as follows:

1. “First, remove ‘proficient at Word’ from your résumé. That is ridiculous.”

2. “Most of your post-college life is simply filling out forms. Car insurance, health insurance, W-2s, W-4s, 1099s. Guess what? None of us know what any of those forms mean, but you will fill out a hundred of them before you die.”

3. “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.”

4. “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. 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.”

5. “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.”


More: Mindy Kaling Loves Having One-Sided Chats With Her Baby Daughter

As you can already tell, her speech was a smash hit, but she really hit the nail on the head when she spoke directly to the women in the audience. “I thought I might take a second to speak to the ladies in the audience,” she said, before adding with a zing, “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.” Boom. Mic drop.

Then she said to the female graduates, “Hey, girls, we need to do a better job of supporting each other. I know 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.”

She continued, “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 8, a movie starring me, which opens in theaters June 8.”

Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project, Beyonce Pad Thai
Image: Giphy

Basically, Kaling wants women not to be afraid to toot their own horns and for them to do it while supporting other women, because it isn’t an easy world for us. If we’re uplifting each other in the process, well, imagine what we all could do side by side.

More: Mindy Kaling Welcomes First Child

She ended her speech by empowering everyone in the audience. “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,” she said honestly. “I was sitting in the chair you are literally sitting in right now and I just whispered, ‘Why not me?’ [This is also the title of her 2015 book .] 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.”

Finally, she concluded, “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.”


The way she used her comedic talents, but also uplifted the audience, especially the women, is further proof Kaling can do no wrong. You can watch her entire speech above, and trust us, you’ll want to watch it from start to finish.

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