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Her speech left the entire Harvard Law School in splits!

June 03, 2014 13:47 IST

Her speech left the entire Harvard Law School in splits!



'Across the campus right now, 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 The Wolf of Wall Street is to be believed.'

'In Hollywood, we all think we are wise advice-givers and most of us have no education whatsoever! Actresses can become nutritionist, experts in baby care and environmental policy.'

'The Harvard law degree is not just a piece of paper, you can do whatever and this institution will follow you, everywhere. If you kill someone, you are the 'Harvard Law Murderer'.'

Indian-American television star Mindy Kaling has just set the bar really, really high for the graduation speech season.

Kaling was at her funniest best as she addressed students at the Harvard Law School's Class Day 2014 alongside Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Kaling, whose real name is Vera Mindy Chokalingam, is the creator and star of the popular television show, The Mindy Project that airs on Fox in the US.

She has also acted in the popular sitcom The Office, various episodes of which she also directed.

Here we bring you the full transcript of her speech. Read on, laugh, learn! :-)


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...

(At this point Kaling is interrupted, and informed that she is not receiving an honorary degree.)

K, um, so apparently there was a little miscommunication. I am no longer Mindy Kaling, esquire-attorney-at-law-comedian-actress.

That's cool, I'm just supposed to stand up here and give funny remarks, and then I'm supposed to sit down... 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 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.

And I do know a ton about the law... because I sue everybody.

And excuse me, there is a burger named after me at Bartley's and they've guaranteed me that it's going to be there until another tertiary member of The Office gets their own TV show.

And they don't just name them after anyone.

Noted Chef Guy Fiery has one; noted drunk driver Justin Bieber has one. So that's pretty good company, Thank you!

Look, I get it. On the surface it would appear that I'm an unconventional choice to speak here today.

I graduated in 2001 from Dartmouth College, 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" -- except there is no town, there is only a forest and a row of fraternity houses that smell like urine.

Actually, a little known fact is that Dartmouth has a law school -- it's just one semester, and its coursework is entirely centered on how to beat a DUI.

But I am not here to extol the virtues of the Dartmouth Red Bull School of Law.

I prepared a speech very carefully the way that any good Dartmouth-educated graduate would.

I drank a 40 of Jagermeister.

I called my dad to see if he would get me out of it -- he could not... 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, I rolled up my sleeves, sat down at my computer, and tried to buy a commencement address off

My credit card was declined. So I wrote this thing myself and here we are.

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Image: Mindy Kaling addresses Harvard Law graduates on their graduation day
Photographs: Courtesy


'Harvard Law is the best of the Harvard graduate programmes'

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I'm sharing the stage with Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern district of New York. He was named by Time magazine as one of the influential persons in the world.

According to Time, Preet Bharara has battled terrorism.

He has crippled international arms dealers, drug traffickers, and dealt with financial fraud.

Clearly, Harvard wanted you to see the full range of what India can produce here.

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!

Is one more important than the other? Who can say?

Dean Martha Minow is here. She has fought for women, families and 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. It was called Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

You can buy it right around the corner at Urban Outfitters next to a book called The Marijuana Chef's Cookbook.

What I want to say is I'm extremely honoured to be part of such a spectacular gathering of very smart and dedicated people.

This graduating class has 3 Rhodes scholars, 11 FullBright Scholars and 4 members of the Peace Corps.

This group before me is bristling with noble young people, many of you having already started charities and philanthropic organisations.

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.

You will defend BP from birds.

You will spend hours arguing that the well water was contaminated well before the fracking occurred.

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 talkin' to you, Noah Feldman.

And let's be honest, Harvard Law is the best of the Harvard graduate programme... The Business School is full of crooks, the Divinity School is just a bunch of weird virgins, the School of Design is like European burnouts, and don't even get me started on the Kennedy School.

What kind of degree do you get from there, Public Policy?

You mean a Masters in Boring Me to Death at a Dinner Party... The med school is just a bunch of nerdy Indians -- I can say that!

Preet can say that. The rest of you, you are out of line -- that is racial, how dare you!

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Image: Mindy Kaling (second from right) with other guests at Harvard Law School
Photographs: Courtesy

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'You represent those who will change laws and effect change'

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The real reason I'm here is I'm 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, in a duel, Aaron Burr-style...

Duels are the first thing you learn when you enter my graduate programme, the Harvard School of Vengeance.

The Harvard Law School crest has the word 'Veritas' which means 'truth' in Latin.

I know this because though I've been known as Mindy all my life, my first name is Vera which also means Truth. That's true. Too boring to be made up.

Under this hallowed word, there are three bunches of asparagus. Because asparagus is the tallest and the proudest of the vegetables, the pillar of the vegetable kingdom, and it's like, it's like... OK, that is not asparagus, that is wheat, which makes also not a ton of sense either.

OK, that was three pages of my speech. This isn't really going anywhere.

I'm gonna move on from making sense of your crest if that's okay with you.

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. It's a very moving film. Dean Minow, you should check it out after you read my book.

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 University of Phoenix, not sure.

No, no, no-as we all know, they attended your friendly rival, Yale Law School.

I know that you have a chip on your shoulder.

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.

Except here's the difference: you are the nerds who are going to make some serious bank, which is why I'm here today -- to marry the best-looking amongst you.

The Harvard law degree is not just a piece of paper, you can do whatever and this institution will follow you, everywhere.

If you kill someone, you are the "Harvard Law Murderer."

If you are caught in a lewd act in a public restroom, you're the "Harvard Law Pervert," my friend. 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.

Mitt Romney? He preferred to be known as "The Mormon Guy" to distract himself from his Harvard past.

I'm an American of Indian origin whose parents were raised in India, met in Africa, immigrated to America and now I'm the star and creator of my own network and television series.

The continents travelled, the languages mastered, the standardised tests prepared for and taken and the cultures navigated are amazing even to me.

My family's dreams about a future unfettered by the limitations imposed by 'who you know' and dependent only on 'what you know', was possible only in America.

Their romance with this country is more than romantic than any romantic comedy I could ever write.

And it's all because they believed that the concept of inherent fairness was still alive in Americans and that here they could aspire and succeed in that their children could aspire and succeed to levels that could not have happened anywhere else in the world.

And the fairness that my family and I have come to take for granted, that all Americans take for granted, is in many ways resting on your shoulders to uphold.

You represent those who will change laws and effect change.

And more than any of the others graduating this week from Harvard, what you decide to do with the next five to ten years of your life will affect the rights of people in this country in a fundamental way.

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Image: Harvard Law students pose with batchmates on their Graduation Day
Photographs: Courtesy

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'One day, you will have the power to make a difference. Use it well'

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I am now at the part of my speech where I am supposed to give you advice.

Then I thought, "You know what celebrities give too much advice, and people listen to it too much."

In Hollywood, we all think we are wise advice-givers, and most of us have no education whatsoever.

Actresses can become nutritionist, experts in baby care and environmental policy.

Actors can become governors, pundits, or even high-ranking officials in religions made up 60 years ago.

For two years, I have played an obstetrician and gynaecologist on a network TV show and damned if I don't think I can deliver a baby.

So I was thinking: Well, then who should be giving advice?

And the answer is, people like you.

You are better, educated and you are going to go out there in the world, and people are going to listen to what you say whether your are good or evil.

And that probably scares you.

Because some of you look really young.

A couple of you are probably evil.

To be honest, it scares me a little too.

You look like 'tweens'. This is ridiculous.

So be the people who give advice to celebrities, please.

You are entering a profession where, no matter what the crime, you have to defend the alleged perpetrator.

Across the campus right now, 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 The Wolf of Wall Street is to be believed.

And most of all -- it is you who are responsible for the language of justice, for the careful and precise wording in all those boring contracts I sign while I watch Real Housewives.

You wrote the terms and conditions that I scroll through quickly when I download the update for Candy Crush.

Terms and Conditions are the only thing keeping us away from the purge.

I don't read them; I just hit "Accept"

iTunes may own my ovaries, for all I know.

"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 the protections we take for granted.

Your dedication to meticulous reading is a tedium I find astounding and admirable.

You take words and 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. But the rest of you form the foundation of our day-to-day lives.

It's backbreaking and often there is not much glory in it.

And in that way, you are the quiet heroes for our country.

However, those of you who are working for Big Pharma and Phillip Morris -- you will be loud anti-heroes, and someone is certain to make an AMC series, glamorising you.

But basically, either way you can't go wrong.

I look at all of you and see America's future -- attorneys, corporate lawyers, public prosecutors, judges, politicians, maybe even the President of the United States.

Those are all positions of great influence.

Understand that one day, you will have the power to make a difference. Use it well.

Thank you, graduates.

Image: Harvard Law graduate class of 2014 throw their hats in the air on Graduation Day.
Photographs: Courtesy

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