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Lessons Learned at Dartmouth: Kaling Brings Humor and a Message to Commencement Ceremony

  • Television comedy writer, actor and Dartmouth College alumna, Mindy Kaling delivers the main address at the Dartmouth College Commencement on June 10, 2018 in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth College graduates Thomas Sebastian LaPorta, left, Christopher Junho Kymn, Christian Ngirabatware Kwisanga, Natalie Kwan and Jennifer Kuo listen to commencement speaker Mindy Kaling at the Dartmouth College Commencement on June 10, 2018 in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Meredith Fiertz walks back to her seat after receiving her degree during the Dartmouth College Commencement on June 10, 2018 in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Kim Lee, left, Felicia Lee, and Jania Lee High, all of Brooklyn, N.Y. cheer on a family member Khaleel Lee at the Dartmouth College Commencement on June 10, 2018 in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, June 11, 2018

Hanover — Looking out over a crowd of 12,000 attendees gathered around the Dartmouth Green, comedy writer and actor Mindy Kaling had a request for the women graduating from Dartmouth College on Sunday.

“Hey, girls, we need to do a better job supporting each other,” she said mid-speech to cheers from the graduating Class of 2018.

Too often, women view the professional world as a competition, where only a few of them are welcomed to the table with their male counterparts, said Kaling, who graduated from the school in 2001.

“But that’s what certain people want us to do. Wouldn’t it be better if we worked together to dismantle a system that makes us feel like there’s limited room for us?” she asked.

“When women work together, we can accomplish anything, even stealing the world’s most expensive diamond necklace from the Met Gallery, like in Ocean’s 8, a movie starring me, which opens in theaters June 8th,” Kaling said to laughs from the crowd.

Kaling, who is best known for her work on television sitcoms The Office and The Mindy Project, often turned to humor during Dartmouth’s annual commencement ceremony, where 1,972 graduate and undergraduate degrees were issued on Sunday.

But sprinkled throughout the address were also calls for inclusiveness, awareness and a warning about the world graduates will soon inherit.

Early on, Kaling said the event shouldn’t be about famous alumni, but instead “the men and women who have toiled in obscurity for years” to make the nation great.

“I speak, of course, of the 51 percent of Dartmouth grads who will go into finance, highest in the Ivy League,” she said. “Look left, look right. All three of you will be spending at least 10 years in a white collar prison.”

Kaling also took aim at the college’s new logo, a green “D” with the Lone Pine that is called the “D-Pine” by school officials.

“It’s beautiful. It reminds me of what college-age Mindy thought a marijuana leaf might look like, but I was too scared to actually find out,” she said.

Among Kaling’s advice to graduates were calls to never order more than one pancake, get used to filling out forms and remove the word “proficient” from resumes.

“You’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel at competency there,” she said of the overused adjective. “This is how you become proficient at Word: You open Word on your computer.”

There also was a warning to men on how to behave in the midst of the #MeToo movement, which attempts to bring greater awareness to sexual assault and gender issues.

“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,” she said. “One shouldn’t need the threat of public exposure and scorn to treat women well, but if that’s what it’s going to take, fine.”

Upon leaving Dartmouth, graduates will likely find a world that can be cold to them, a world where trust in institutions is at a record low and where truth matters less, Kaling said. But they can find success by taking a page from President Donald Trump, she said, and use “delusion” to their advantage.

“You have to have insane confidence in yourself, even if it’s not real,” she said. “You need to be your own cheerleader now because there isn’t a room full of people waving with pompoms to tell you, ‘You did it. We’ve been waiting all this time for you to succeed.’ ”

Graduates should also strive to make good decisions, said Nicholas Norwitz, one of the class of 2018’s four valedictorians.

Before leaving school, Norwitz recalled his father repeating the mantra “make good decisions today.”

“Life is nothing more than a series of decisions,” Norwitz said, explaining the advice. “If you make good decisions, you’ll be happy. If you make bad decisions, you won’t.”

During their four years at Dartmouth, the Class of 2018 practiced making both good and bad decisions, Norwitz said. Taking courses unprepared and eating too many cookies were among the bad, he said, while taking professors out to lunch counted toward the good.

“Doing due diligence to decide whether to expand the student body by 25 percent — good decision.” he said, referring to a now-scrapped proposal to enroll more students at the college.

“Ultimately deciding not to expand the student body by 25 percent — very good decision,” Norwitz added, turning to college officials and thanking them.

The Class of 2018 has laughed and cried at Dartmouth, he said. They’ve also grown in intellect and character, all while making their own decisions.

“It’s now time for us to step forward and take on the challenges that the world has to offer,” Norwitz said. “From everything I have seen and everyone I see before me here today, I am confident that we’re up to those challenges.”

College President Phil Hanlon told graduates that there is wisdom to be found in the work of Dartmouth’s alumni, many of whom have gone on to lead global initiatives.

“They relish the rich interplay between world cultures, they understand that never before have the world’s economies been so intertwined and they recognize that at no time in history have the urgent challenges facing humankind so defied national boundaries in their impact and solutions,” Hanlon said, citing the six individuals awarded honorary degrees as exemplars of the school’s global spirit.

“We have done our very best to prepare you to be citizens of the world,” he said. “As you leave Dartmouth, remembers the lessons you’ve learned through your global engagements.”

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

Upper Valley MembersOf the Dartmouth College Class of 2018

David Ballou, South Royalton; Cortland Begor, Sunapee; Benjamin Bonner, Enfield Center; Patrick Caldwell, Lyme Center; Samuel Carey, Hanover; Jacob Farwell, Hartland, Nathalie Ferneau, Canaan; Matthew Goff, Hanover; Tomas La Porta, Hanover; Johan Noordsij, New London; Jaclyn Pageau, West Lebanon; Elisabeth Pillsbury, Hanover; Valentina Sedlacek, Hanover; Amber Strock, West Topsham; Grace Sylvia, Plainfield; Yen Truong, Lebanon, Ziqi Wang, Hanover.