Mindy Kaling nailed her commencement speech at Dartmouth College’s graduation ceremony in Hanover, New Hampshire, on Sunday, June 10. In her 17-minute address, the 38-year-old, who graduated from the Ivy League institution in 2001, shared practical advice — buy a toilet plunger before you need one — and opened up about life as a single mother.
The Mindy Project creator and star welcomed her daughter, Katherine Kaling, on December 15. She honored her late mom, Dr. Swati Roysircar, by choosing the middle name Swati for her first child. Kaling has not revealed the identity of the infant’s father.
“After my daughter was born in December, I remember bringing her home and being in my house with her for the first time and thinking, ‘Huh. According to movies and TV, this is traditionally the time when my mother and spouse are supposed to be here, sharing this experience with me,’” Kaling told the crowd. “And I looked around, and I had neither. And for a moment, it was kind of scary. Like, ‘Can I do this by myself?’”
The brief moment of panic quickly passed. “That feeling went away, because the reality is, I’m not doing it by myself,” Kaling shared. “I’m surrounded by family and friends who love and support me. And the joy I feel from being with my daughter Katherine eclipses anything from any crazy checklist.”
The Oceans 8 actress urged graduates to not “be scared” if they “don’t do things in the right order” and to remember that life takes unexpected twists.
“I didn’t think I’d have a child before I got married, but hey, it turned out that way, and I wouldn’t change a thing,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d have dessert before breakfast today, but hey, it turned out that way and I I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Kaling, who starred alongside Reese Witherspoon in A Wrinkle in Time, also shared wisdom on self-confidence. “I was not someone who should have the life I have now, and yet I do,” she revealed. “I was sitting in the chair you are literally sitting in right now and I Just whispered, ‘Why not me?’ and I kept whispering it for 17 years; and here I am, someone that this school deemed worthy enough to speak to you at your Commencement.”
She continued: “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, but especially not yourself. Go conquer the world. Just remember this: Why not you? You’ve made it this far.”