John Krasinski ’01 delivers Brown University’s Baccalaureate address, “What do I know?”

John Krasinski ’01 delivers Brown University’s Baccalaureate address, “What do I know?”

October 9, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


Thank you so much Thank you. [LAUGHTER] Great. Guys, this is insane! This is– [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] What is happening? Why am I up here? [LAUGHTER] Truly! No, I’m dead serious– why am I up here? To be asked to come back to this place to
speak to a graduating class of an institution that truly meant the world to me and still
is the leading aspect of my entire life and career, it is the cornerstone of my life and
career, is an astonishing honor. So, thank you for being here. I mean that. I really, really do. [APPLAUSE]
( cheering ) It is also– it is also an honor that I almost
immediately regretted saying yes to. [LAUGHTER] Because look at this! Look at this church! Look at these people!
Supposedly, there are more people on the green! [LAUGHTER] They only just told me that! Yes! [LAUGHTER] There’s people in Salomon? No? No Engin 93? Okay. Nothing for Salomon? All right. I love you, Salomon. So… [LAUGHTER] Luckily, a few days after I said yes, a rescue call was sent. I was to get on the phone with our phenomenal
host– one of our phenomenal hosts of today’s incredible ceremony, the one and only reverend
Janet Cooper Nelson down here. [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] Yup. Rock star, put this all together. Her job was pretty simple: to harness any
and all spiritual guidance, reach out over that phone, metaphorically grab me by the
hand, and wade me through the rock waters of sheer terror. [LAUGHTER] The end result? She made things way worse! [LAUGHTER] Way– Janet, I love you, but in attempting to give me advice and pointers on what I should
say in my speech, she started referencing these indelible speeches from other people
who had already spoken. [LAUGHTER] Yeah! [LAUGHTER] You want to know what she led off with? “You know, I remember when Ruth Bader Ginsburg
was here.” [LAUGHTER]
[APPLAUSE] I don’t mind telling you, I peed a little
bit, I did. The class of 2002 had a Supreme Court Justice talk to them. Okay. And as I was checking my pants to see if they
needed dry cleaning, I heard her say, “Or maybe the funniest moment had to be when the
DalaI Lama was here.” [LAUGHTER] And I blacked out. I mean, full, unconscious, blacked out. Head hit the table, out. Because, to be honest, guys, the Dalai Lama
spoke! Okay. I mean, he was the funniest? [LAUGHTER] I can’t contend with the Lama on a bad day. But to know that he brought his “A” game? He had a tight 15-minute comedy set? No. [LAUGHTER]
No, thank you. So I’d like to start here today by addressing
the parents of the class of 2019. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) And to you, I would like to say, I hear you. Don’t worry. I have already had the T-shirts made up: “My
kid just graduated from Brown, and all I got was the dude from ‘The Office’?” [LAUGHTER] Good, I’m glad you think that’s funny. That’s really funny. Let me tell you what’s really funny– the
notorious RBG, His Holiness — they didn’t go to Brown. Not smart enough. [LAUGHTER]
[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] You know who did go to Brown? The dude from “The Office.” [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] That’s ridiculous. It actually sounded awful just coming out. So… [LAUGHTER] and because of that, I am specifically and acutely aware of just what an astounding honor
it is to be here today. So to the graduates of the class of 2019—tomorrow–
I say thank you. Thank you for letting me be here today. Truly, thank you for letting me be a part
of your day. This is your day, and you are graduating tomorrow! How cray is that? Does anyone say “cray” anymore? Okay. I’m ancient. Who’s nervous? Let me see a show of hands from the people
in the– really? A lot of outliers here. Well, I look forward to your world domination. I was terrified. Because all the people came up to me and said,
“the future belongs to you.” Whoa! What? I am currently searching for an apartment, trying to keep the number of roommates in
single digits. [LAUGHTER] Literally, nothing belongs to me. [LAUGHTER] Take a deep breath. Let’s all take a breath. Wow, you actually did it. You’re going to be great. There are many sides to being nervous, and
a whole lot of them are wildly useful. And for the ones that aren’t so useful, well,
let me see if I can’t walk you through some of those. Believe it or not, they asked me to come up
with a title of this speech. Yes, this character has a speech. And, yes, they think it’s good enough to come
up with a name. What’s so hard to understand? The name I came up with at the top of my head
was, “what do I know?” right? Pretty good. And, oddly enough, that line went from being some jokey device to deflect my fears of being
up here to a genuine challenge to myself. What do I know that I can tell you guys about
that could possibly illuminate the future that stands in front of you? Well, I know that tomorrow you will receive–
all receive a piece of paper that says you’ve gotten one of the best educations there is
to get, period. I also know that that education did not necessarily
happen in the classroom. You know, the funniest thing about me is my
getting into Brown, I didn’t feel I deserved to get in. So I made it my mission to deserve to graduate. That was my thing. I came to Brown as a midyear– don’t know
if that program exists anymore. But– yes? One person? Nope. Okay. It’s gotten smaller since I was here. But I was one of 32 kids that were not accepted in the fall with everyone else– thanks anyway. But, rather, we came in alone, hungry, and cold in January. I remember immediately trying to find my place,
to find a group, to find my people. There was a moment where I even thought I
might try to play basketball here. Don’t laugh yet. Don’t laugh yet. I– my brother Paul was actually the captain
of the basketball team, so I had communicated with the coach a couple of times about potentially
walking on– still no laughter, please. It was January, so it was mid-season. I walked up to the gym one day to meet with the
coach. I opened the door, and as the door swung open by the time it reached the end
and was coming back I went, no. Nope. These dudes were too big. They were too good. And it was just after lunch, and they were
on their second practice? No, thank you. No, thank you. So I turned around and walked straight through
the campus toward my dorm when something caught my eye. I saw a flyer for a sketch comedy group called
“Out of Bounds.” Yes! You can all clap for them. That’s how big we were, too. [LAUGHTER] It’s funny, because I think the flyer caught my eye because it was nailed to a tree. And I remember thinking, like, whoa. I haven’t been at Brown very long, but protecting trees is kind of, like, one of your things, right? [LAUGHTER]
So I went in for the audition, and my entire life changed. Nope, not because I got in, not because I
started acting. It was through that group that I found my
way into this community. It was through that group that I met my people. And all of a sudden, I was surrounded by the
most inspiring peers. I mean, every single one of them seemed way
smarter than me, way cooler than me, way more interesting. And one of the best decisions I made in my
life was just to lean all the way in. Nope, not to acting. Are you kidding? I mean, I really wasn’t good enough to be
here. I don’t know if you’re listening. These kids were amazing. Truly, by the end of senior year, the only
parts I’d ever got were “armed guard number four,” or “terrified hostage guest number two.” Yeah, that’s right– when I was at Brown we
did “Die Hard the musical.” Yup. You guys really missed out. I can promise you that. My parents are right here. They’ll tell you, you missed out. They didn’t? They didn’t miss out? It was ridiculous? Okay. You still have your shirts that say, “my kid
went to Brown and all I got was ‘Die Hard The Musical’?” That seems harsh, but we’ll talk about it
later. No, I didn’t get to throw everything into
acting, but I did throw everything I had into this unparalleled pool of brilliant people. You know, people often asked me how I got
into acting. The truth is I didn’t get into acting. I got into everything. Believe it or not, when I got to Brown, I
really hadn’t listened to any music that wasn’t on the radio, seen any movie that wasn’t in
the multiplex. One day I asked a small group of friends to
each give me one of their favorite movies, favorite albums, and they did. Every single week for four years. Yeah. Crying– okay. I’m back. It was the experience of my life. One of the most mind-blowing, mind-expanding
experiences, and no drugs were necessary. It was without a doubt the beginning of everything. For the next four years, I wanted to be a
part of it all. I formed a new way of thinking, a new way
of executing those thoughts. I lept out of my comfort zone, then stayed
there, and then lept again. I experienced firsthand the powerful shift
in doing something out of love rather than out of necessity. I learned what it meant to believe. I took chances. I failed. And I took more chances. So, yes, in the classroom, I received one
of the greatest educations one can possibly get, true. But the piece of paper I got at graduation
also represents that education. The piece of paper I got not only says where
I was educated but who I was educated with. And it declares that I am a member of that
community of people to be relied upon to take risks, provoke thought, and to be committed
participants in this world. The piece of paper I got represented every
facet of my experience, and the piece of paper I got is the exact same piece of paper you’re
going to get tomorrow. The piece of paper I got, I live my life every
single day by. Because when looking at this sense of nervous
that you’re feeling now, ask yourself what’s it based in? Is it based in the unknown? Because my question to you is up until now,
how else have you approached each new tomorrow? And if your nerves are based in fear of failure,
my question is up until now, how have you defined success? Because in this community, without the presence
of financial gain, isn’t success simply defined as your just being on to something, taking
an idea farther than it had ever been before? Why does it ever need to change? It doesn’t. Or if your nerves are based on something bigger,
a fear of something bigger, the world at large, well, to that I do say, yes, it’s true. They’re right. The future does, indeed, belong to you. But the abstract way to responsibility, to
change it overnight very much does not. Real change is organic. The only responsibility you all have is to
hold fast to everything that you have lived right here. To not conform, to realize that when you’re
out there, you’ve done all this before right in here. Remember fondly the discomfort you felt when
you were asked to push yourself farther than you were ever sure you could go. And the wash of elation when you finally got
there. Remember to be scared. You’ve been scared before. You’ll be scared again. Find more of your people. Lean all the way in. Take chances. Fail big, and take chances again. Listen to music. Remember to believe in something. And fall in love as many times as it takes. And remember, before you do something special,
just do something. The truth can almost seem too simple. But the simple truth is the program you ran
here is the same program. Just run it again and again and again. That’s what I know. Thank you to this class, to this institution,
it is my honor. Thank you. [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] [APPLAUSE]