Mindy Kaling is a smart lady. It's not really a surprise, then that Harvard Law School asked the Dartmouth alum to speak at their graduation Wednesday. It's also no surprise that it went fabulously well, showcasing everything there is to love about Mindy Kaling: Her self-deprecation coupled with a persistent confidence, her ability to travel between "low" and "high" cultures with ease, a humor and intelligence evident in every syllable. Basically she killed it.
One of the highlights of her speech was that she managed to side-step the commencement tradition of the speech-giver spouting life advice. This advice can be useful and beautiful — see: J.K. Rowling's Harvard commencement address from 2009 — but it can veer into the cliche pretty quickly. Instead, Kaling took to musing on the unique position of a Harvard Law graduating class, throwing in some nice (and needed) jabs at celebrity culture along the way.
Here's an excerpt from her speech, the big kahuna of which is viewable below:
I'm now at the part of my speech where I'm supposed to give you advice. And I thought 'what advice could I give you guys?' Celebrities give too much advice — and people listen to it too much. In Hollywood we think we are these wide advice-givers, and most of us have no education whatsoever. Actresses can be become nutritionists; experts in baby care and environmental policy. Actors can become governors, pundits, or even high-ranking officials in religions made-up a mere sixty years ago. For two years I have played an obstetrician and gynecologist on TV, and damned if I don't think I can deliver a baby.
So then I was thinking 'Well then, who should be giving advice?' And the answer is people like you. You're better educated, and you're gonna go out there in the world and people are going to listen to you — whether you're good or evil. And that probably scares you, because some of you look really young. And I'm afraid a couple of you are probably evil, that's just the odds. And to be honest it scares me, because you look like a bunch of tweens — I mean look at these kids in these suits.
So please, try to be the type of people who give advice to celebrities, not the other way around. You are entering a profession where no matter how bad the crime or the criminal, you have to defend the alleged perpetrator. Across the campus Harvard Business School graduates are receiving diplomas, and you will need to defend them. For insider trading, or narcotics — or maybe both, if Wolf Of Wall St. is to be believed.
Itunes may own my ovaries for all I know, k? 'Employees must wash their hands before returning to work' — a lawyer wrote that. 'You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law' — a lawyer wrote that! 'Mindy Kaling may not come within a thousand feet of professor Noah Feldman' — a lawyer wrote that! These are protections that we take for granted. You take words and you turn them into the infrastructure that keeps our world stable.
[..] You form the foundation of our day-to-day lives. It's back-breaking, and often there's not much glory in it. And in that way, a lot of you will become the quiet heroes of our country. However, those of you who go on to work for Big Pharma and Phillip Morris, you will become the loud antiheroes, and someone is certain to make an AMC series glamorizing you, so congratulations.
[...] Understand that one day, you will have the power to make a difference. So use it well. You can watch the full thing below: