Rashida Jones got a lot of laughs when she spoke at Harvard’s annual Class Day celebration on Wednesday afternoon. The actress and screenwriter, best known for her roles in “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Angie Tribeca,” graduated from Harvard in 1997, and peppered her speech with plenty of humor and inside jokes about her alma mater.
Sporting a bobbed haircut, a black sleeveless shirt, and black framed glasses, Jones acknowledged the graduating class of 2016 with a bold greeting — “Harvard, what’s up? What’s up?” — that drew cheers and applause from the crowd in Harvard Yard.
She began by congratulating the students and their parents, especially their parents, because “you significantly lowered your chances of your kids moving home.” She quickly cautioned parents that it could still happen, even to a Harvard grad, so “don’t get cocky.”
Jones joked that when she got the invitation to speak at Class Day, she immediately thought “Wow, a bunch of people said no, and they had to go to the waiting list,” and that reminded her of how she got into Harvard.
When Jones graduated from Harvard College in 1997, her dad, Quincy Jones, was the Class Day speaker that year. She boasted that made her the first second-generation class day speaker “in the history of mankind.”
“Nineteen years ago I was right where you are,” she said, describing how she overslept on the day of her graduation, panicked, checked her pager, and “threw on my cap and gown like I was in a John Hughes movie.” Pausing to marvel at how far she’s come since then, she said, “I have a much nicer pager now.”
In her wide-ranging speech, Jones talked about life at Harvard, taking naps in the library, hooking up on campus, and being quoted in The Crimson. At one point, she called out the Hasty Pudding Theatricals and said, “I think its time to break tradition and let girls in your show.”
All joking aside, Jones made a point to bestow advice on the graduating class throughout her talk, and told them that the real world “isn’t always merit-based,” and “the people in charge aren’t always the most competent.”
She challenged the students to live fearlessly and presented them with three pieces of advice: don’t count on the system, protect your instinct to care, and choose love.