“For example, you have worked tirelessly for four years to earn the diploma you’ll be receiving this weekend. That was great,” the Harvard grad said. “And Dartmouth is giving me the same degree for interviewing the fourth lead in ‘Twilight.’ Deal with it.”
The rest of O’Brien’s speech was full of silly stories, questionable Dartmouth history and some profound life advice. Here are some of the best quotes from his speech.
On the art of procrastination:
“When I got the call two months ago to be your speaker, I decided to prepare with the same intensity many of you have devoted to an important term paper. So late last night, I began. I drank two cans of Red Bull, snorted some Adderall, played a few hours of ‘Call of Duty,’ and then opened my browser. I think Wikipedia put it best when they said, ‘Dartmouth College is a private Ivy League University in Hanover, New Hampshire, United States.’ ”
On a source of Dartmouth pride:
“Dartmouth, you have an inferiority complex, and you should not. You have graduated more great fictitious Americans than any other college. Meredith Grey of ‘Grey's Anatomy.’ Pete Campbell from ‘Mad Men.’ Michael Corleone from ‘The Godfather.’ In fact, I look forward to next years' Valedictory Address by your esteemed classmate, Count Chocula.”
On his first visit to Dartmouth:
“When I was 17 years old and touring colleges, way back in the fall of 1980, I came to Dartmouth. Dartmouth was a very different place back then. I made the trip up from Boston on a mule and, after asking the blacksmith in West Leb for directions, I came to this beautiful campus. No dormitories had been built yet, so I stayed with a family of fur traders in White River Junction. It snowed heavily during my visit and I was trapped here for four months. I was forced to eat the mule, who a week earlier had been forced to eat the fur traders. Still, I loved Dartmouth and I vowed to return.”
On what he learned from losing “The Tonight Show”:
“In 2000, I told [Harvard] graduates “Don't be afraid to fail.” Well now I'm here to tell you that, though you should not fear failure, you should do your very best to avoid it. Nietzsche famously said, ‘Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.’ But what he failed to stress is that it almost kills you. Disappointment stings and, for driven, successful people like yourselves, it is disorienting. What Nietzsche should have said is , ‘Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you watch a lot of Cartoon Network and drink mid-price Chardonnay at 11 in the morning.’ ”
“There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized. ... Your path at 22 will not necessarily be your path at 32 or 42. One’s dream is constantly evolving, rising and falling, changing course.”
“At the end of my final program with NBC, just before signing off, I said, ‘Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.’ Today, receiving this honor and speaking to the Dartmouth Class of 2011 from behind a tree-trunk, I have never believed that more.”
Watch O’Brien below or read his entire speech here.