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May 22, 1983

Meryl Streep ’71, Academy Award winning actress for Sophie’s Choice (1982) and Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), delivered the 1983 Commencement address entitled “The Secret that You Know.” Streep spoke to the graduating class as “peers,” encouraging them not to lapse into complacency, but instead to “integrate what you believe into every single area of your life. Take your heart to work and ask the most and best of everybody else too.”

“That choice, between the devil and the dream,” Streep counseled the class of 1983, “comes up every day in different little disguises…. My advice is to look the dilemma in the face and decide what you can live with. If you can live with the devil, Vassar hasn’t sunk her teeth into your leg the way she did mine. But that conscience, that consciousness of quality and the need to demand it can galvanize your energies, not just in your work, but in every aspect of your life.”

“What you can take away from Vassar,” Streep concluded, “is a taste for excellence that needn’t diminish.” Vassar Views

The Years