Conan O’Brien Kills It at Dartmouth Graduation

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.

You can find the com­plete tran­script of the speech here. And don’t miss Conan’s vis­it to Google last sum­mer, which was full of good laughs…

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