Shonda Rhimes tells dreams to 'suck it' in amazing Dartmouth commencement speech -- VIDEO

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Image Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Shonda Rhimes knows how to write a speech; we know that much. But does she know how to deliver one of her own speeches? Though she might not like doing it, the answer is clearly “yes.”

On Sunday, Rhimes stood in front of her alma mater’s graduating class of 2014 to tell this year’s newest batch of Dartmouth alums what to expect after college. Her speech was filled with candid revelations, personal stories, and of course, a few references to the wild world of ShondaLand. Here’s what we learned:

She almost brought an actress with her. As Rhimes explained: “I do not like to give speeches. I’m a writer. I’m a TV writer. I like to write stuff for other people to say. 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, so…”

She’s fully aware that this speech will be dissected everywhere. “This is no fireside chat. It’s not just you and me. This speech is filmed and streamed and tweeted and uploaded. NPR has, like, a whole site dedicated to commencement speeches. A whole site just about commencement speeches. There are sites that rate them and mock them and dissect them. It’s weird. And stressful. And kind of vicious if you’re an introvert perfectionist writer who hates speaking in public in the first place.”

She doesn’t have wisdom, but she does have ShondaLand references. “I feel wildly unqualified to give you advice. There is no wisdom here. So all I can do is talk about some stuff that could maybe be useful to you, from one Dartmouth grad to another. Some stuff that won’t ever show up in a Meredith Grey voiceover or a Papa Pope monologue. Some stuff I probably shouldn’t be telling you here now because of the uploading and the streaming and the tweeting. But I am going to pretend that it is 20 years ago. That it’s just you and me. That we’re having a fireside chat. Screw the outside world and what they think. I’ve already said ‘poop’ like five times anyway … things are getting real up in here.”

Graduation day is all about the parents. “You think this day is all about you. But your parents … the people who raised you … the people who endured you … they potty trained you, they taught you to read, they survived you as a teenager, they have suffered 21 years and not once did they kill you. This day … you call it your graduation day. But this day is not about you. This is their day. This is the day they take back their lives, this is the day they earn their freedom. This day is their Independence Day. So, parents, I salute you. And as I have an eight-month-old, I hope to join your ranks of freedom in 20 years!”

Be a doer (like George and Izzie). “I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing. Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change. So, Lesson One, I guess is: Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer.”

In college, she never yearned to write for TV. “I did not dream of being a TV writer. Never, not once when I was here in the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, did I say to myself, ‘Self, I want to write TV.’ You know what I wanted to be? I wanted to be Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. That was my dream. I blue sky’ed it like crazy. I dreamed and dreamed. And while I was dreaming, I was living in my sister’s basement. Dreamers often end up living in the basements of relatives, FYI. Anyway, there I was in that basement, and I was dreaming of being Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. And guess what? I couldn’t be Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, because Toni Morrison already had that job and she wasn’t interested in giving it up. So one day I was sitting in that basement and I read an article that said — it was in The New York Times — and it said it was harder to get into USC Film School than it was to get into Harvard Law School. And I thought I could dream about being Toni Morrison, or I could do.”

Toni Morrison loves Grey’s. “At film school, I discovered an entirely new way of telling stories. A way that suited me. A way that brought me joy. A way that flipped this switch in my brain and changed the way I saw the world. Years later, I had dinner with Toni Morrison, and all she wanted to talk about was Grey’s Anatomy. That never would have happened if I hadn’t stopped dreaming of becoming her and gotten busy becoming myself.”

The day after graduation is the worst. Also, fun fact: Rhimes was hungover at her graduation. “Lesson Two. Lesson two is that tomorrow is going to be the worst day ever for you.”

Hashtags really don’t do anything (and she loves Game of Thrones). “Oh. And while we are discussing this, let me say a thing. A hashtag is not helping. #yesallwomen #takebackthenight #notallmen #bringbackourgirls #StopPretendingHashtagsAreTheSameAsDoingSomething.

“Hashtags are very pretty on Twitter. I love them. I will hashtag myself into next week. But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag. It’s you, sitting on your butt, typing on your computer and then going back to binge-watching your favorite show. I do it all the time. For me, it’s Game of Thrones.”

She doesn’t really “do it all.” “Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life. If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost. Something is always missing … Lesson Number Three is that anyone who tells you they are doing it all perfectly is a liar.”

Her dreams did not come true. “My dreams did not come true. But I worked really hard. And I ended up building an empire out of my imagination. So my dreams? Can suck it. You can wake up one day and find that you are interesting and powerful and engaged. You can wake up one day and find that you are a doer.”

(And yes, she does say “seriously.”)

Watch Rhimes dish out some wisdom below:

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