Hannah Goldstein watched 2010 graduate and saw Meryl Streep. Delights!
How do you make students forget about a change in Class Day location and the threat of cooties? Distract them! The Barnard class of 2010’s new claim to bragging rights seems to have done the trick, and all senior faces were happy faces on this sunny day at Ancel Plaza.
The ceremony began with the procession of the senior class. The ceremony began with the first Meryl Streep sighting (through a window). Within seconds, audience and press alike were in a frenzy. “Meryl just wants to hang out with the students!” said Media Relations Director Sun Min as she guided the press towards the corner where students and Meryl were to intersect according to the planned graduation route. Intersect they did, and lots of schmoozing ensued. Then, after ten minutes of processing and seat-locating, all students were finally seated. First to speak was Anna Quindlen, Barnard’s celebrity-in-residence. “Like you, I am a member of the graduating class of 2010,” she said. OK, Anna. The next few of speeches were delivered by senior class president Chelsea Zimmerman, Provost Elizabeth Boylan, and student body president Katie Palillo, who went so far as to coin the term “foremothers” and made admirable use of alliteration, most notably in referring to the choice reading of Barnard women: “manuscripts, manifestos, and the Mystique.” Valedictorian Elected speaker Alicia Mountain also spoke on behalf of the graduating class.
The Senior Fund co-chairs took the stage to present the senior class gift: the Class of 2010 Contingency Fund, which will help ease the financial burden of living in “one of the most expensive cities in the world” by buying bedding and other college necessities for first-years on financial aid. Then the presentation of Medals of Distinction began: Thelma Golden (curator), Olympia Snowe (senator), and Shirley Tilghman (president of Princeton) all received awkward second-person citations. (“You were born in Queens…” began one.) So that no one forgot that Meryl Streep was in attendance, DSpar had been making a point to periodically express her starstruck-ness: while fumbling to open the envelope that held the name of the senior prize winner, DSpar said, “Meryl Streep should be doing this!” When Streep got up before her citation and stood in what was apparently the wrong place, DSpar murmured something to her and then quipped, “I’m directing Meryl Streep!” before going on to list every single award Meryl Streep has ever received.
And then the big moment arrived and Meryl Streep began her own speech, which was artful, surprisingly self-effacing and platitude-free. She told stories about being the Virgin Mary in her mother’s Nativity scene, trying to be one of the populars in high school, finding herself in college, and running into success and unwanted celebrity later in life; though all initially seemed unconnected, it soon became clear that she was choosing to leave the connecting job to the audience. Though much of her speech focused on female empowerment, her larger message seemed to be that success is an intrinsic experience, separate from Oscars, fame, SAG Awards, and invitations to speak at college commencements (!) “You don’t have to be famous; you just have to make your mother and father proud. And you already have,” concluded Streep warmly, and the crowd broke into wild applause. It was a perfect transition back to the students—the real stars of the day. And to the voice of Dean Denburg, the degree-awarding began and ended, DSpar gave her speech, and the Barnard College Class of 2010 were awarded their diplomas. A hearty congratulations!