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'The Office'-inspired graduation speech wins the internet for all the right reasons

J.B. Pritzker made an interesting observation based on 'The Office' during the graduation ceremony at Northwestern University in Illinois.

'The Office'-inspired graduation speech wins the internet for all the right reasons
Cover Image Source: YouTube | NBC Chicago

"The Office" has provided us with years of entertainment with its quirky characters and famous one-liners. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker gave the commencement speech at Northwestern University in June, heavily inspired by the hit series. According to CBS News, actor Steve Carell, who played Michael Scott on the popular sitcom, was in attendance for his daughter's graduation at the time!

"'Whenever I'm about to do something, I think, 'Would an idiot do that, and if they would, I do not do that thing.–Dwight Schrute," Pritzker said. "The entire efficacy of this incredibly useful piece of information hinges on your ability to pick the right idiot."


"I wish there was a foolproof way to spot idiots, but counterintuitively, some idiots are very smart. They can dazzle you with words and misdirection. They can get promoted above you at work. They can even be elected president," he continued.

"If you want to be successful in this world, you have to develop your own idiot detection system," the governor said, adding that he counts "empathy and compassion" as part of his "idiot detection system," joking that he also judged those who have never seen the original Star Wars movies. "Over my many years in politics and business, I have found one thing to be universally true: the kindest person in the room is often the smartest," Pritzker said. 

The 58-year-old politician said "real wisdom" comes with age—and usually not when you expect it. The beginning of the pandemic in 2020 gave him "a greater appreciation for just how much you don't know." He said the early days "felt like waking up every day on a raft in the middle of the ocean, frantically searching the horizons for some land to anchor your feet on."

"I knew that my job was to minimize the damage this deadly disease was doing, but no one could guide me toward the absolute best way to do that," Pritzker said. "As Michael Scott said, 'I knew exactly what to do. But in a much more real sense, I had no idea what to do.'"


"The absolute best thing you can do is start to make decisions, even small ones. Just get yourself moving. Pick something you can tackle and do it," Pritzker said. "Let your small decisions beget medium decisions, which will beget big decisions. Some of your decisions will be brilliant in retrospect. Others will be less so. If you make a mistake, apologize and move on. Talk to people you trust and more importantly, listen to them."


According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the governor never knew Carell would be in the audience. Apparently, the two met briefly after the address, with Carell telling him he liked his speech per Pritzker's office. Pritzker and his chief of staff, Anne Caprara, wrote the speech claiming to be die-hard fans of the show. Many netizens commended the speech uploaded on YouTube, with one internet user saying, "This man has his heart and brains so well balanced. One of the finest and most pragmatic speeches in recent times." Another added, "One of the best commencement speeches I have heard!"


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