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Ariel Kirshenbaum Headshot

Yale Commencement Speech

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Before I begin, I've been told it's time for the 7th inning stretch. I apologize to those of you who are still, er, dehydrated from last night ... Dad ...President Salovey ... but I have been allotted 20 seconds of my speech to let you guys stretch ... so everybody up! Fifteen seconds left, get up! Okay reach over towards High Street Gate ... towards Phelps Gate, towards the sky, touch your toes, why not? Now everybody laugh. Thank you, that was my first joke. You may now be seated.

Now the real start. Good afternoon to all of the brilliant, inspiring, spectacular people here today ... and also to the Yale graduating class of 2014.

I know what you're thinking. How did they get Scarlett Johansson to give a student speech?! Yes, we're virtually identical, but sadly for you, it's just me. Luckily for you, I'll be in New Haven a couple more nights, so call me.

Just kidding. I know what you're actually thinking ... and I agree! John Kerry does not look a day over 22! Yes Secretary Kerry, you can give me a job.

Before I go any further, I have a public service announcement: if at any point, you don't like my speech today, you can simply reply-all "M" to mute.

Okay, real talk. So much has changed in the past four years, and not just our parents' bank accounts. #Tuition! You want examples? I got five.

  1. Since we arrived, the NSA took away our privacy, while Yale took our Safety ... Dance.
  2. The word "selfie" is now in the dictionary ... Oh, your grandparents are confused? I'll demonstrate ... Secretary Kerry? [Take selfie with John Kerry.] (Don't worry I don't work for Samsung.)
  3. When we arrived in 2010, Miley was filming her last season of Hannah Montana. And during our Senior Fall, she taught us how to "twerk" ... which I won't demonstrate. (I'll let you explain that to your grandparents yourselves. You're welcome.)
  4. We all remember sophomore year when Yale decided it would never give another A ... or A-, or B+, not even one lousy B ... Now everybody smile and nod with me so my parents still believe what I've been telling them.
  5. We've also witnessed amazing Yale achievements. Just since we've been upperclassmen, two Yale faculty were named Nobel laureates, and our hockey team brought home the national championship. Only at Yale.

Okay. Enough fooling around, Ariel. Use this podium for good and advise the nice people. But what authority do I have to advise you? We're Yalies; we know everything, including all typical graduation advice. We already know, "Teamwork makes the dream work." I mean, just try doing the naked run alone. And, "Go with your gut"? No one made it here today without taking "Clapping for Credit," "Structure of Networks," or "Vikings! Exclamation point!"

Totally stumped, I wrote this speech the same way I did every other Yale paper ... Last night, before opening a Word document, I finished a box of Cheez-Its, stalked my Facebook crush (Linda Lorimer, you looked great at Myrtle), I checked Buzzfeed, Facebook stalked again, (Ronnell Higgins, you also looked great!), and then I called my Mommy.

My Mom's been giving me the same send-off since my first day of kindergarten. As I nervously slid out of her station wagon that morning, my mom gave me one last kiss and the best advice I've ever received:

She said: "Just make somebody's life better because you're in it."

Make somebody's life better because, you're in it. It is the most important thing we can do, and it's not that hard. No, you don't have to cure cancer -- although, who am I kidding? I'm sure one of you will -- but we do owe it to the people around us to be kind.

And guess what? You've already done it! You've already made many people's lives better simply by being in them. Don't believe me? Just look around you! (Or, if it's more aesthetically pleasing, you can keep looking at me.)

You've certainly made my life better. Ah Bulldog Days -- the pre-frosh weekend to make up for all the parties we skipped in high school. Yet on the second day, I woke up crying, overwhelmed, unsure if I could ever fit in here. Puffy eyed, I meandered towards old campus, a quiet carpet of strewn a cappella tickets and improv flyers. Then, I heard my name. Shockingly, it wasn't my imagination, but a boy I'd met on a different college visit the week before. (Yeah, I got into more than one college. Humble brag.) He invited me to lunch with some other pre-frosh, and badabing baddaboom, I felt at home in a place that had moments ago, seemed impossibly unknowable. A few weeks later, I chose Yale. (Thanks Bobby.)

Then there was the time, and time again, when there wasn't any profound, commencement-speech-worthy moral, but we just stayed up chatting, ordered Wenzels at 3 a.m., and we were here. Together.

We gotta keep doing this stuff after Yale.

I promise you it's easy. Let's start with smiling at people on the sidewalk. Zero effort, really nice. When you leave the fitting room, put the clothes back on their hangers, even if you're at Gant. Call your parents. If you think the coworker you've never talked to rocked her presentation, tell her! It's not creepy; it'll make her day. When you're asking yourself, am I supposed to tip for that? Tip anyway. Write thank-you notes. Call your parents again.

Oh! And don't poop in people's laundry! I hear they hate that.

So, Make somebody's life better because you're in it. Heed my Mom's advice. Smart lady.

Class of 2014, we all have 36 credits of Yale classes, (or more, you heard about those kids earlier), but we have infinite credits of Yale experience and people, and for that, I am extremely grateful, and better for it.

I want to thank you for having equal enthusiasm for your work as for your friends, for making me laugh, for ruining the grading curve in Physics181, for inspiring me every day. I will miss this magical place, and you all, dearly.

If there is only one more thing you take away from my speech, please, please let it be this: [hold up phone] 555-5555.

Congratulations!