Commencement Address

Jane Condon '73

Thank you all, I want to start by saying I'm no Claire Ayoub. That girl is funny, ladies and gentlemen. She is great. Claire, please hire me someday!

President Bottomly, esteemed faculty, proud parents (where are my parents?! I want to hear it ffrom the parents. They're not worried about you, they're not worried about paying the tuition; they're looking at you today and thinking, "How am I goingto fit all that stuff into my car!"), and last but not least, KICK_ASS SENIORS! (Yay!)

My name is Jane Condon, if you like me.

If you don’t like me, my name is Madeleine Albright.

I hear Bill Clinton is giving the Commencement Address at NYU. Brooke Shields is doing Princeton. And you have me. What were you people thinking?

When asked, my first thought was, “Is Nora Ephron dead?” What about Lynn Sherr of ABC News? Diane Sawyer? Cokie Roberts? Hillary? (Libya... what a lame excuse.) Anyway. But you chose. I love the seniors who chose me. Thank you very much.

And I'd like to say hi to Victoria, who was your chief justice, and to the Mezcla young lady that I met. And to Athena and Nora and Naomi. I mean, you're all wonderful people... this is great.

I'm really happy to be here. Because I love this place. This Wellesley.

My mom was so proud of it that she liked to lengthen the name into three syllables: Weh-LES-ley.

I remember my first day here. My mom dropped me off. I come from a real blue-collar town in Massachusetts called Brockton. (South Shore!) She says, “Janie, this place is going to be really good for you, because you’re kind of a diamond in the rough."

Four years later, sitting where you’re sitting today, she says to me, “Janie, you’re still a diamond in the rough, but you got a great education!”

When I came to Wellesley, I was on partial scholarship. My dad had died when I was 15. (Don’t worry about me. Everyone has problems.) The Wellesley Student Aid Society gave me a wastebasket (thank you), a dictionary, and a gift certificate for $50 worth of books. I was so touched, I almost cried.

I vowed then that I would give back to this school someday, if I could.

So here I am. I’m not being paid for this—although I hear Toni Morrison is getting $30,000 for her speech at Rutgers. Don't worry about me, yeah. I’m hoping for a sweatshirt, a t-shirt, how ‘bout a mug? Is a mug asking too much? Really.

All right! All right! A mug! Now I have arrived. How much will this go for on eBay? No, I'm going to keep this forever. Thank you, Kim. Thank you.

Anyway, this leads me to my first point this morning. This is what I want to say to this incredibly impressive group of graduates: ASK FOR MONEY! ALWAYS ASK FOR MONEY!

Learn from my mistakes! When you go out into that wide, wide world, I want you to ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT. Very few things will be handed to you. You ASK FOR THAT INTERNSHIP, you ASK FOR THAT JOB, and I’m not saying that you have to do this, but… I asked my husband to marry me.

He got back to me in two weeks with a list of pros and cons. Not knowing I was the best thing to ever happen to him!

(I have a joke in my act about us. I say how we’ve been married for a LONG time. So let me say this about same-sex marriage: Honestly? What’s the problem? My husband and I have had the same sex for 32 years! He’s very cute. I married up in looks. His initials are KGB so he doesn’t monogram a lot.)

I have always wanted to give back to this place that changed my life. Before I gave birth, I knew I wanted my kids to come here. The first time they set foot on campus, they said they wanted to come here, they really wanted to come here.

And that’s when I had to tell my boys, “Not all dreams come true! But if you get into MIT, maybe you got a shot. You can take a class.”

I do hope you’ll give back to this fine institution, if you can. When I say give back, I don’t necessarily mean money—although I’m sure the Development Office, Office for Resources would like that. (You know, crew shells aren’t free!) I mean, take care of each other. Help a Wellesley classmate. When you get older, maybe you can arrange for an internship. When I was junior, they had ten summer internships in Washington, D.C. I was number 11 on the list. I mean I coulda been running this country by now. OK, maybe that worked out for the best?!

But for right now, what can you do?

Post something nice on a friend’s Facebook page. Be a good friend. What’s the fun of going through life alone?

I used to get offered shows at different comedy clubs and country clubs. I did them for a while. Then I asked if I could bring a friend. Sometimes someone below me, sometimes someone above. (Don’t bring too many above. They make you look bad. All right.) But I always said that when I do a show and it’s just me, it’s just a show. When I bring a friend, it’s a memory.

Help other people and they will help you. Also help other people just because it feels good. I’ve tried to help my comedian friends on the way up. They always know that my car has food: goldfish, gum, Diet Coke and Fig Newtons. (I’m not sayin’ it’s nutritious. I’m just sayin’ it’s food.) I give them rides. I get them jobs in the suburbs.

My experience is that what goes around does come around. Not always directly.

My fairy godmother appeared two years ago. She saw 20 minutes of my act. She gave me her spot at Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City to do my one-person show. She gave me her director. She found my producer. And 10 days ago, I just finished an extended run of my first Off-Broadway show, Janie Condon: Raw & Unchained. This woman is Susan Sandler. She wrote a movie that was big in the 90s called Crossing Delancey.

I know Commencement speakers are expected to inspire. I’ll tell you the truth. Honestly? I got nothin’.

But I’m Wellesley. So if I don’t have the answer, I know where to find it!

I didn’t go the library. I didn’t go to the Internet. I went straight to my refrigerator door where in among all the magnets and the family photos, I found a few inspirational quotes.

The first is from Ralph Waldo Emerson. His definition of success:
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty" (at least the front row—phew! You guys are so much better looking than we were. I gotta tell you, things have changed!); "to find the best in others [my dad always said even the bus driver has something to teach you]; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

President Calvin Coolidge said perseverance is key. He said:
“Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.”

And having lived in Japan for five years, I want to share my favorite Japanese proverb with you:
“Nanakarobi, yaoki.” Be a seven times fall down, eight times get up kind of person. Nanakarobi, yaoki. That’s what I want for you.

The only time you fail is when you quit.

I was on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. I tried out for this show four times. I slept in my car overnight to get the audition. You have to really want it.

So here we are on this momentous day, your day. I’m looking at all these educated, eager faces and thinking you’ve got a great ride ahead of you. (I'm also thinking—this isn't in my script—I have a son... If any of you are interested? He's over there in the blue...? Really, take a look. Honey, could you stand up and wave? He's not unattractive. It would be nice if you had a job with health benefits. All right, moving on.) You've got a great ride ahead of you. With ups and downs. But with a great education in your back pocket. Wellesley women always seem to share one quality: quiet confidence. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret: They make great old ladies!

In closing, I was at an event once with many impressive women. The question was, “What would you put on your tombstone?”

I said, for me, “She brings joy.”

Hillary, our Hillary, said, “I done my damn best.”

And Estelle Ramey, a professor of endrocrinology at Georgetown University, she said these words, “I have loved. And been loved. And all the rest is background music.”

I’d like to repeat that: “I have loved. And been loved. And all the rest is background music.”

So these are my three points:

  1. Give back.
  2. Don’t give up.
  3. Love.

And remember what I said about being a friend? I always wanted to have a girl. My boys were supposed to be Kate and Elizabeth. Now I like to think I have 600 daughters! I want you all to friend me on Facebook. I want to say this: If you ever, ever need anything… Anything at all? I want you to call President Kim Bottomly. She’s a leader. I’m just a little comedian.

You’re an AMAZING class. Thank you for the honor of a lifetime! Thank you very much.