Meryl Streep: The 'Old Man of the Mountain' Crumbles

Actress Meryl Streep thinks it might be a sign.

Commencement speech delivered at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, May 24, 2003.

I'm very pleased to be here today to address you on this day, your last day of wearing your tassels on the left. I have agonized over this speech, mostly because I don't usually give speeches, or when I do, it's at my house, and nobody listens. I have thought long and hard about how to advise you, inspire you, thrill and excite you over multiple speakers that repeat each word-erd-erd in that sonic-onic-onic Doppler-oppler-oppler effect-ect-ect that makes you want to go to sleep-eep-eep. Meryl Streep-eep-eep put me to sleep-eep-eep. Probably quite a few of you need a great deal of sleep after all of the parties, er, studying, finals and things of Senior Spring. And if you're at all like my college age children, you're used to getting most of your sleep during daylight I right?

Because I want you not to doze, I decided I should avoid politics. Also, of course, I am in show business, and not allowed to speak about politics. Or, I'm allowed to speak, of course I'm allowed to speak, and never work again. But my problem is: I've never heard of anybody making anything but a political speech in New Hampshire. Nobody makes a speech in New Hampshire unless they're stumping for something, do they? I think it's a state law, isn't it? Your honor? If I have to, by law, make a political speech, you'll sleep. But if I make a speech about sex, you'll wake up. See, it's already working! So I'll make a speech about sexual politics, and I won't be running for anything except, perhaps, cover.


I went to school in New Hampshire 30 years ago as one of the first women to integrate Dartmouth College. We were 60 intrepid girls on a campus of approximately 6,000 men. We tried to lead them, gently, toward a difficult idea (one that UNH has endorsed almost since its inception): the idea that women are valuable to a university. It was not as difficult as convincing the Taliban more recently of the same thing, but I do remember some pitched battles back then. Your graduation class today of nearly 3,000 students is almost 2-to-1 women, and your school is not an anomaly. This imbalance, to differing degrees, is replicated at colleges and universities around the country. In the huge University of California system, women are in a strong majority, averaging around 57 percent of the student population. According to Peterson's Guide, at NYU and Boston University, the percentage is 60-40 women to men. What's going on? And who, 30 years ago, would've ever predicted it? (Maybe the Taliban had a legitimate fear: give them an inch and they'll just take over!)

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