Mindy Kaling’s Speech at Harvard Law School Class Day 2014

Mindy Kaling’s Speech at Harvard Law School Class Day 2014

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[APPLAUSE] MINDY KALING: Thank you, Connie. Good afternoon, everybody. Graduates, parents,
faculty, this is really such a
remarkable day– obviously for you,
but also for me. Because after spending a life
obsessing over True Crime, the impossible happened. I was asked to speak at the
Harvard Law Commencement and accept an
honorary legal degree. Yes, isn’t that
the American dream? Me, Mindy Kaling,
daughter of immigrant– ERIC JORDAN: So there’s
no actual– you’re not getting a– just not happening. MINDY KALING: I’m not? OK. [LAUGHTER] OK. So apparently, there is a
little miscommunication. I am no longer Mindy
Kaling, Esquire, Attorney at Law, Comedian, Actress. I’m just– that’s cool. No, I’m just supposed to stand
up here and give funny remarks. And then I’m
supposed to sit down. That’s OK. That doesn’t seem fair. But that’s OK. I’ll do that. I know what you’re
probably thinking. Mindy Kaling– why
did they ask her? She’s just a pretty
Hollywood starlet. What does that quadruple
threat know about the law? Sure, she seems really down
to earth, and pretty in, like, a totally accessible way. And yeah, she was on People
magazine’s most beautiful people list this year
and also in 2008. But what intelligent
remarks could she possibly make about the law? She’s probably too busy
doing shampoo commercials. But I’m not too busy. In fact, I would kill to
do a shampoo commercial. So if anyone from
L’Oreal is out there, please just Snapchat
me after this. But I’ll have you know, I
do know a ton about the law. Because I sue everybody. [LAUGHTER] And excuse me, there is a burger
named after me at Bartley’s. And they have
guaranteed me that is going to be there until another
tertiary member of the cast of The Office gets
their own TV show. And they don’t just name
burgers after anyone there. Noted chef Guy Fieri has one. Noted drunk driver
Justin Bieber has one. [LAUGHTER] OK? So that’s pretty good company. Thank you. Look, I get it. On the surface, it
would appear that I am an unconventional
choice to speak here today. To be honest, I don’t
know much about the law. I graduated in 2001
from Dartmouth College– AUDIENCE: Woo! MINDY KALING: Thank you. That man is drunk. [LAUGHTER] –an academic institution
located in lawless, rural New Hampshire, where,
when you arrive, you are given a
flask of moonshine and a box of fireworks. And you are told simply
to, quote, “go to town.” [LAUGHTER] Except there is no town. There is only a forest and
a row a fraternity houses that smell like urine. [LAUGHTER] Actually, little know fact–
Dartmouth has a law school. It’s just one semester. And its coursework is entirely
centered on how to beat a DUI. [LAUGHTER] But I am not here to extol the
virtues of the Dartmouth Red Bull School of Law. I’m here to talk to you. So even though I
have no idea why I was asked to speak here
today, I prepared this speech very carefully, the
way that any good Dartmouth-educated
graduate would. I drank a 40 of Jagermeister. Then I called my dad to see
if he would get me out of it. He’s here today. He could not get me out of it. So I tried to hire
a college freshman to write it for me in
exchange for a $200 gift card to Newbury Comics. That didn’t work out. Finally, seeing that I
absolutely had to do this and couldn’t get out of
it, rolled up my sleeves, sat down at my
computer, and tried to buy a commencement
address off of
movingcommencementspeeches.com. My credit card was declined. So I had to write
the thing myself. And here we are today. There are many, many
distinguished speakers who have spoken here today. I am sharing the stage with
Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern
District of New York. We’ve heard what
a great guy he is. In 2012, he was named
by Time magazine as one of the 100 most
influential people in the world, which apparently,
they’re just giving out. [LAUGHTER] According to Time, he
has battled terrorism, as evidenced by his conviction
of the Times Square Bomber. He’s crippled international
arms dealers, drug traffickers, and Dublin financial fraud. Clearly, Harvard
wanted you to see the full range of what
India can produce here. [LAUGHTER] Mr. Bharara fights finance
criminals and terrorism. I meet handsome men in cute
and unusual ways on television. And next season, my character
might get a pet puppy. So is one more important
than the other? Who can say. [LAUGHTER] Dean Martha Minow is here. She has fought for
women, families, refugees and is a champion for education. She has published over 15 books,
such as Not Only for Myself– Identity, Politics, and Law. Dean Minow and I
have a lot in common. I, too, wrote a
book, as you know. It was called Is Everyone
Hanging Out Here Without Me? You can buy it right around
the corner at Urban Outfitters, next to a book called The
Marijuana Chef’s Cookbook. [LAUGHTER] So I digress right now. What I really wanted to say
is that I am extremely honored to be with such a
spectacular gathering of very smart and dedicated people. This graduating class has three
Rhodes Scholars, 11 Fulbright Scholars, and four members
of the Peace Corps. This group before
me is bristling with ambitious young
people, many of whom have already started
charities and philanthropic organizations. And now, with this diploma
in hand, most of you will go on to the
noblest of pursuits– like helping a cable company
acquire a telecom company. [LAUGHTER] You will defend BP from birds. [LAUGHTER] You will spend hours arguing
that the well water was contaminated well before
the fracking occurred. [LAUGHTER] One of you will sort out
the details of my prenup. A dozen of you will help me
with my acrimonious divorce. And one of you will fall
in love in the process. I’m talking to
you, Noah Feldman. [LAUGHTER AND CHEERS] And let’s be honest,
Harvard Law is the best of the Harvard
graduate programs. OK, I can say this. We’re amongst friends, OK. The Business School
is full of crooks. The Divinity School is just
a bunch of weird virgins. [LAUGHTER] The School of Design is
like European burnouts. And don’t get me started
on the Kennedy School. What kind of degree do you get
from there– public policy? OK, right. You mean a master’s in boring
me to death at a dinner party. I’m sorry. Let’s just be honest. The Med School is just a
bunch of nerdy Indians. I can say that, by the way. Hey, hey, I can–
Preet can say that. The rest of you–
you are out of line. That is racial. How dare you? [LAUGHTER] But I digress, again. I think I’m just really
excited to be here. The real reason I am
here is, as Connie said, I am obsessed with justice–
not so much with the law, but with justice. Actually, in my mind,
law is that pesky thing that often gets in
the way of justice. I believe in the Clint
Eastwood school of the law. An eye for an eye? I don’t think so. That solves nothing. You take my eye, I take
your life, my friend– [LAUGHTER] –OK, in a dual,
Aaron Burr style. I don’t want your stupid eye. For what, my eye collection? You’re dead. [LAUGHTER] Yes, duels are the
first thing that you learn when you enter my
graduate program, the Harvard School of Vengeance. But again, that is not what I
came here to talk to you about. That’s for the reception after. We can talk about that more. The Harvard Law
School crest, which you can see in front
of you, has the word “veritas,” which means
“truth” in Latin. I know this because
though I have been known as Mindy
my whole life, my first name is actually
Vera, which also means “truth.” It’s true. It’s actually too boring
to make that fact up. And if you look at
the crest, you’ll notice that under
this hallowed word, there are three
bunches of asparagus. [LAUGHTER] Because asparagus is the
tallest and the proudest of the vegetables– the pillar
of the vegetable kingdom. And it’s– it’s like the Lat– OK that is not asparagus. That is– that is
wheat, which makes also not a ton of sense, either. [LAUGHTER] OK, well that was like
three pages of my speech. [LAUGHTER] Nope– OK, that was– that’s
a call back to asparagus. I have this really funny
run about Hollandaise. You’ll never get to hear that. You know, this isn’t
going anywhere. I’m going to move past
trying to make sense of your crest, which
makes no sense. Harvard Law has an incredible
number of illustrious alumni. President Barack Obama attended
Harvard Law– or so he says. Elle Woods went here, from
the trenchant documentary, Legally Blonde. [LAUGHTER] It’s a very moving film. Dean Minow, you
should check it out after you read my
book, actually. Six of the nine
Supreme Court Justices are graduates of Harvard Law. The other three, I don’t
know where they went. I think it was, like,
University of Phoenix. I’m not sure. [LAUGHTER] No, no, no. As we all know, they
attended your friendly rival, Yale Law School. OK, let’s just–
can we take a moment to talk about this
rivalry, everybody? I know that you have a
chip on your shoulder. OK? Yale Law is always number one. And you are always number two. Sometimes Stanford
comes in there, bumps you down to number three. But listen. Let me tell you something. From where I stand from
an outsider’s perspective, here’s the truth:
you are all nerds. [LAUGHTER] OK? All of you. Except here’s the difference. The only difference
is that you are the nerds that are going to make
some serious bank, all right? Which is why I’m here today– [LAUGHTER] –to marry the
best-looking amongst you. [LAUGHTER] And back to this beautiful
diploma– this Harvard Law degree. It’s not just a piece of paper. You can do whatever
you want now, and this institution will
follow you everywhere. OK? If you kill someone, you are
the “Harvard Law Murderer.” [LAUGHTER] If you are caught in a lewd
act in a public restroom, you’re the “Harvard Law
Pervert,” my friend. [LAUGHTER] And then you can
represent yourself. And you’ll probably
get acquitted. Because you went to Harvard. In fact, the only
downside of this degree is when you run for
Senate, you will have to distance
yourself from it to seem more like
a regular person. You’ll tuck in
your flannel shirts into your freshly pressed
jeans that you just bought. And still, this institution
is going to haunt you. No matter how many
diners you eat at, no matter how many guitar solos
you do with Rascal Flatts, you are Harvard to the grave. You won’t be able to buy a
pickup truck rusty enough to distance yourself from
this place, all right? Mitt Romney– he preferred
to be known as the Mormon Guy to distract himself
from his Harvard past. Now I’d like to get a little
serious for just a moment. I am an American
of Indian origin whose parents were
raised in India. My dad is actually here. They met in Africa,
emigrated to America. And now I am the
star and the creator of my own network
television program. The continents traveled,
the languages mastered, and the standardized
tests prepared and taken for over and over again,
and the cultures navigated are amazing, even to me. My family’s dream about a
future unfettered by limitations imposed by who you know and
dependent only on what you know was only possible in America. Their romance with
this country is more romantic than any romantic
comedy that I could ever write. And it’s all because
they believed, as I do, in the concept of the
inherent fairness that is alive in America
and that here, you could aspire and succeed. And my parents believed
that their children could aspire and succeed
to levels that could not have happened anywhere
else in the world. And that fairness
that my family and I have come to take for
granted– and all Americans take for granted–
is, in many ways, resting on your
shoulders to uphold. You represent those who will
make laws and effect change. And that is truly
an amazing thing. And more than any of the
others graduating this week from Harvard, what you decide
to do in the next 5 to 10 years will affect the rights
of people in this country in a fundamental way. I’m now at the part
of my speech where I am supposed to
give you advice. And I thought, what advice
could I give you guys? Celebrities give
too much device. And people listen
to it too much. In Hollywood, we
all think that we are these wise advice-givers. And most of us have no
education whatsoever. Actresses can 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 60 years ago. [LAUGHS] [LAUGHTER] 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 going to go
out there in the world, and people are going to
listen to what you say, whether you’re good or evil. And that probably scares you. Because some of you
look really young. [LAUGHTER] And I’m afraid a couple
of you are probably evil. That’s just the odds. [LAUGHTER] And to be honest, it scares me. Because you look like
a bunch of tweens. I mean, this is ridiculous. Look at these kids
in these suits. So please, just try to be the
kind of people that 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. That’s incredible to me. Across the campus, Harvard
Business School graduates are receiving diplomas. And you will need to defend
them for insider trading, or possession of
narcotics, or maybe both if Wolf of Wall
Street is to believed. And the thing I find
most fascinating is that you are responsible
for the language of justice, for the careful and
precise wording, and all those boring
contracts that I sign while I watch
Real Housewives. You wrote the terms
and conditions that I scroll through
quickly while I download the update
for Candy Crush. Terms and conditions
are the only things keeping us from the
purge, everybody. I don’t read them. I just hit Accept. iTunes may own my
ovaries, for all I know. [LAUGHTER] “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 1,000 feet of Professor Noah Feldman.” A lawyer wrote that. [LAUGHTER] These are protections
that we take for granted. Your dedication to
meticulous reading is a tedium that I
find just so admirable. You take words,
and you turn them into the infrastructure
that keeps our world stable. The seductive Southern
lawyers in John Grisham novels get all the glory– your
Noah Feldmans of the world. But the rest of you,
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 Philip Morris, you will be the
loud anti-heroes. And someone is certain to make
an AMC series glamorizing you. So congratulations. [LAUGHTER] But basically, either
way, you can’t go wrong. I look at all of you and
see America’s futures– attorneys, corporate lawyers,
public prosecutors, judges, politicians, maybe even the
President of the United States. Those are all positions
of such great influence. Understand that
one day, you will have the power to
make a difference. So use it well. Thank you, graduates. Thank you faculty, parents,
professors, families, everyone. Thank you. Thank you,
movingcommencementspeeches.com. Congratulations. [APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]

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