Helen Mirren had some good advice for university graduates – and Donald Trump.
The Oscar-winning actress was on hand to pick up an honourary degree and deliver a commencement speech at Tulane University. Her speech was full of words of wisdom and advice on feminism, health care and social media.
“Whether you’re in the French Quarter or the Oval Office, no good can ever come from tweeting at 3 a.m.,” she advised the graduating class, making a clear dig at Trump’s after-hours Twitter rants. She also made sure to make mention of his health care plans, asking students to vow to “Never again allow a group of old, rather grumpy, rich white men define the health care of a country that is 50.8 per cent women and 37 per cent other races.”
The actress encouraged graduates to embrace feminism no matter their sex, stating that “life improves for everyone” when women are respected and supported.
“No matter what sex you are, or race, be a feminist,” she says. “It is clear that when women are given respect, and the ability and freedom to pursue their personal dreams and ambitions, life improves for everyone.”
The 71-year-old actress says she has always held feminist beliefs, but only recently came to define herself as a feminist and that feminism is not an “abstract idea, but a necessity.”
“I didn’t define myself as a feminist until quite recently but I had always lived like a feminist and believed in the obvious: that women were as capable and as energetic and as inspiring as men. But to join a movement called feminism seemed too didactic, too political,” she says. “However, I have come to understand that feminism is not an abstract idea but a necessity if we – and really by ‘we,’ I mean you guys – are to move us forward and not backward into ignorance and fearful jealousy. So now I am a declared feminist and I would encourage you to be the same.”
Of course, Mirren didn’t get to where she is without a bit of self-confidence, something that was instilled in her at an early age by her grammar school headmistress, Mother Mary Mildred.
“Don’t be afraid of fear,” she says recalling the lessons from the nun. “Those words bring me back to my grammar school and our headmistress, Mother Mary Mildred, an ancient Nun – is there any other type? – with one drooping eyelid and a lifetime lived behind the walls of a convent. She said those words to me the moment I walked into her class, a trembling 11-year-old about to enter high school. Sixty years later and I will never forget those words or that teacher.”
Now, Mirren is making sure to pass those 60-year-old lessons on to the class of 2017.
“I think what she meant was, don’t let fear rule you,” she says, continuing, “For the moments when you are challenged by other fears – like ‘Am I good enough?’, ‘Am I smart enough?’, ‘Will I fail?’ – throw caution to the winds, look fear straight-away in its ugly face, and barge forward. And when you get past it, turn around and give it a good swift kick in the ass. And thank Mother Mary Mildred.”
Watch her full speech in the video above.