Shonda Rhimes’ Real Talk for Dartmouth Grads: Dreams Are for Losers

“Be a doer, not a dreamer…it’s hard work that makes things happen.“

Writer, director and showrunner Shonda Rhimes addresses the 2014 Dartmouth graduating class on June 8, 2014.

I don’t like giving speeches. 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.

So I don’t like giving speeches. In general. Because of the fear. And the terror. But this speech? This speech, I really did not want to give.

I want my daughters to see me and know me as a woman who works.


Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams…Dreamers often end up living in the basements of relatives, fyi.

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.

Years later, I had dinner with Toni Morrison. All she wanted to talk about was Grey’s Anatomy.

Lesson Two: Tomorrow is going to be the worst day ever for you.

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 into your computer and then going back to binge watching your favorite show.

The lint in my navel that accumulated while I gazed at it as I suffered from feeling lost about how hard it was to not feel special after graduation…that navel lint was embarrassed for me.

The air you are breathing right now is rare air. Appreciate it. And don’t be an asshole.

And usually, they have this sort of admiring and amazed tone.

Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means that I am failing in another area of my life.

If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the trade off. 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 one hundred percent okay, you never get your sea legs, you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost.

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 be sitting right where you are now. Looking up at me. Probably — hopefully, I pray for you — hungover. And then 20 years from now, you can wake up and find yourself in the Hanover Inn full of fear and terror because you are going to give the commencement speech. Dry mouth. Heart beats so so fast. Everything in slow motion. Pass out, die, poop.



I make stuff up for a living. Remember, it's not real, okay? Don't tweet me your craziness.

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shonda rhimes

I make stuff up for a living. Remember, it's not real, okay? Don't tweet me your craziness.