The stars shined upon the Ivy League schools this graduation season. Tom Hanks at Yale, Amy Poehler at Harvard, Denzel Washington at U Penn. These kids have it good, but nowhere near as good as the Dartmouth grads. This weekend, Conan O’Brien rolled into Hanover, New Hampshire and dished out plenty of jokes:
Parents, if your child majored in fine arts or philosophy, you have good reason to be worried. The only place where they are now really qualified to get a job is ancient Greece. Good luck with that degree.
You know, New Hampshire is such a special place. When I arrived I took a deep breath of this crisp New England air and thought, “Wow, I’m in the state that’s next to the state where Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is made.”
To this day I cannot help but wonder: What if I had gone to Dartmouth? If I had gone to Dartmouth, I might have spent at least some of my college years outside and today I might not be allergic to all plant life, as well as most types of rock. If I had gone to Dartmouth, right now I’d be wearing a fleece thong instead of a lace thong… If I had gone to Dartmouth, I’d have a liver the size and consistency of a bean bag chair. Finally, if I had gone to Dartmouth, today I’d be getting an honorary degree at Harvard. Imagine how awesome that would be.
And a little wisdom for life, which, honestly, holds entirely true.
For decades, in show business, the ultimate goal of every comedian was to host The Tonight Show. It was the Holy Grail, and like many people I thought that achieving that goal would define me as successful. But that is not true. No specific job or career goal defines me, and it should not define you. In 2000—in 2000—I told graduates to not be afraid to fail, and I still believe that. But today I tell you that whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.
Many of you here today are getting your diploma at this Ivy League school because you have committed yourself to a dream and worked hard to achieve it. And there is no greater cliché in a commencement address than “follow your dream.” Well I am here to tell you that whatever you think your dream is now, it will probably change. And that’s okay. Four years ago, many of you had a specific vision of what your college experience was going to be and who you were going to become. And I bet, today, most of you would admit that your time here was very different from what you imagined. Your roommates changed, your major changed, for some of you your sexual orientation changed. I bet some of you have changed your sexual orientation since I began this speech. I know I have. But through the good and especially the bad, the person you are now is someone you could never have conjured in the fall of 2007.