Peter Dinklage ’91 Addresses Bennington College’s Class of 2012 (Full Transcript

Peter Dinklage

Here is the full transcript of The Game of Thrones star – Peter Dinklage’s commencement speech at Bennington College’s Class of 2012…

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Peter Dinklage ’91 Addresses Bennington College’s Class of 2012


Don’t be frightened! When a Bennington student, 10 minutes before you come up to the podium — and you’re amazed.

That he made. If you don’t bring it to the podium with you, you will never be Bennington.

So I would like to thank you Ben for helping me put the fear of God in the audience tonight. But I have to put it down because I’m an actor, I am really weak. That was heavy. It wasn’t like a probe but it was real. Thanks Ben.

So now I’m going to read. And I’m not off book. Sorry, I might be looking down a lot.

Thank you, President Coleman, Brian Conover, faculty, students, family, alumni, some of whom are dear friends of mine who have traveled all the way from the big city to see me hopefully not humiliate myself tonight. And especially thanks to you, the Graduating Class of 2012.

See, as a joke I wrote, hold for applause, and I was actually going to read that. So you kind of killed my joke.

Let’s do that again. 2012, hold for applause.

2012. Wow! I never thought I’d see 2012. I thought perhaps the Mayan calendar would prove correct. And the end of the world would have been the greatest excuse to get me out of this terrifying task of delivering the commencement speech. But wait! According to the Mayan calendar here, when does the world end? December — December 2012. Damn!

Okay. Maybe I shouldn’t talk to the graduates eager to start the new lives about the end of the world. Okay. Really? Really?

Of all the novelists, teachers, playwrights, poets, groundbreaking visual artists and pioneers of science, you got the TV actor. No, no, and I actually heard you petition for me. Oh, you fools!

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You know what, for those of you who didn’t petition for me, I would love to later on talk about the problems in the Middle East and the downfall of the world economy. And for those of you who did petition for me, I don’t have any signed DVDs of the Game of Thrones. But I am happy to talk about the parallel lineages of the Targaryens and Lannisters later at the bar.

You see, it took all of my strength, and, of course, a little extra push from my wife Erica for me to agree to do this. Because I don’t do this. In my profession, I am told by people who know what they’re doing, where to stand, how to look, and most importantly, what to say. But you’ve got me — only me — my words unedited and as you will see quite embarrassing.

Okay, let me think. I’m thinking. But actually I didn’t read that. That was ad libbed.

Let me think. What has — everyone and their uncle told me, as I desperately seek out advice on how to give a commencement address.

“Tell them what they want to hear.”

“Talk about your time at Bennington.”

“Know that there is no wrong speech.” I like that one.

“Just keep it brief.” That was my father-in-law.

“Be brutally honest.”

“Tell them how hard it is after you graduate.” We’ll get back to that one.

“Just watch Meryl Streep’s commencement speech at Barnard and you’ll be fine.”

What did Beckett say: “I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On”.

So even if I don’t burn in your hearts and minds long after this speech is over. Even if I don’t inspire you to reach for the stars and beyond. Even if I am erased from your memory after one glass of wine tonight — Where am I going with this? I can’t go on. I’ll go on.

You know, I won’t speak of my time here, like some old fishermen. You have already had your time here. You have your own story to tell.

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But I have to say. For me, it did start here, in Vermont, on a very rainy night. It was 1987. And I was a prospective student. The rain was coming down so hard, it was impossible to see that I was meeting the person who would later become my greatest friend and collaborator. A freshman, who would, 17 years later, introduce me to the woman that became my wife. I’ll call him Sherm. Because I do.

It was late at night, on the road, right there near Booth House. And despite the dark night and the heavy rain, this place was so alive. The lights pulsed from each of the dorms.

Now I was a kid from New Jersey who went to an all-boys catholic high school. I was four-foot something. I mumbled when I spoke. I wore a sort of woman’s black belt that capped, black tights, combat boots and a skull.

But here at Bennington, I was home. And I have to say it doesn’t get better. Let me clarify. There are not shinier more important people out there. Your fellow students, you friends sitting around you are as good as it gets. Twenty two years after my own graduation, I have worked with my rainy night friend and fellow graduate Sherm on countless productions he has written, in all stages of development from living rooms to Broadway.

Brooks, Ian, Justin, Brett, John, Matthew, Jim, Sean, Hyla, Nicki and [Dabi] are all classmates I shared my time with here and still work with. And I’m lucky to call my friends. We are very spoilt here. People always say to me, “for such a small school it seems like there are so many of you”. I find that really interesting. And I kind of think that’s perfect. We can’t help it. We burn very brightly. Please don’t ever stop.

Graduates, now when I sat where you are right sitting right now, I had so many dreams of where I wanted to go, who I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do. Theater companies I wanted to start with classmates. Movies, I wanted to be in. Directors I wanted to work with. Stories I needed to tell. It might take a little time, I thought. But it would happen. When I sat there, 22 years ago, what I didn’t want to think about is where I would be tomorrow. What I would have to start to do tomorrow.

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And I graduated in 1991, a great year. A time of resurgence for independent films in this country. A time of relatively affordable rents in New York City. See, I assumed that I could make a living writing my plays, acting way off off off Broadway. And hopefully, you know, one day, join the actors I loved and respected in those independent films. TV – oh, what, no. What! Are you kidding me? No, didn’t even consider that. I had much more class than that. Much more self-respect than that. And so bothers —

What I didn’t have was cash, a bank account, a credit card, or an apartment. I just had debt. A big hungry, growing larger every moment debt.

So as you will tomorrow, I had to leave beautiful Vermont. Attack the life that I knew with socks and a tooth brush into my backpack. And I slept on ouch, after couch, after couch, after couch at friends’ apartments in New York. Until I wore out the rent paying roommates’ welcome.

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