Grey's Anatomy mastermind Shonda Rhimes returned to Dartmouth College two decades after graduating from the Hanover, NH, school herself — to receive an honorary Doctor of Arts degree and to give the main address at the commencement ceremony.
But instead of offering trite clichés and generic messages of inspiration like other commencement speakers might, the 44-year-old TV producer gave graduating students a candid, frank, and pragmatic reality check — even though speaking in front of thousands of attendees and even more internet viewers terrified her.
"I actually contemplated bringing Ellen Pompeo or Kerry Washington here to say my speech for me, but my lawyer pointed out that when you drag someone across state lines against their will, the FBI comes looking for you," she joked.
Her first lesson: "Ditch the dream, and be a doer." She argued that the people who are happiest and most successful in this world are those who do instead of dream — those who work hard instead of wasting time wishing.
Shonda, for example, wanted nothing else than to be Toni Morrison when she was young. Then, on a lark, she challenged herself to get into USC's film school, thus starting a new career trajectory that would lead her to fame and fortune.
"Years later, I had dinner with Toni Morrison," she told the crowd. "And all she wanted to talk about was Grey's Anatomy."
Then she gets to lesson two: "Tomorrow is going to be the worst day ever for you, but don't be an asshole … Yes, it is hard out there, but hard is relative."
She advised the students to not spend too much time bemoaning our first-world problems and to instead work to make the world better.
And lesson three — which we covered extensively yesterday because it's so awesome — is that no one can do it all, not even Shonda. Being an imperfect working mother suits her just fine.
"My dreams did not come true, but I worked really hard, and I ended up building an empire out of my imagination," she concluded. "So my dreams can suck it."
Grey's Anatomy Season 11 airs this fall.