Universally beloved thespian Meryl Streep celebrates her 66th birthday on Monday. Aside from her incomparable acting talents, the three-time Academy Award-winner is a vocal advocate for global women’s rights and recently funded a new initiative for female screenwriters over 40. Streep has also spoken at four of our annual Women in the World Summits. Her charisma has inspired legions of women of all ages to become champions for change — and we salute her with a look back at five memorable moments from our stage.
2015 | STORY POWER: THREE GREAT WOMEN IN FILM
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Meryl Streep, film director and AFFRM founder Ava DuVernay, and CEO of SOC Films Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy graced the stage at the 2015 Women in the World Summit to discuss hot-button issues through the female lens. In a panel moderated by Jon Stewart, the three women shared how they tackle women’s issues and promote activism in their work — whether through powerfully portraying brave or exposing women’s struggles by documenting or dramatizing them. In one notable moment, Streep confessed, “I always wanted to be Tom Sawyer, not Becky.”
2013 | IRELAND’S FIREBRAND AND PEACEMAKER: A TRIBUTE TO INEZ MCCORMACK
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Streep paid tribute to her friend, Irish human-rights and peace activist Inez McCormack, who died 10 weeks before the 2013 Women in the World Summit. Streep, in mourning, wore black as she recounted stories about McCormack, whose husband sat in the third row. Streep concluded her moving testimony with a call to arms. “One life can stand for the benefit of many, but everyone must participate. Inez leaves us with a legacy which is a prod to action. A call to arms, to link arms. Stand together, with those who have been abandoned. Inez McCormack, her great heart beats on in us.”
2012 | A TRIBUTE TO HILLARY CLINTON
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Before then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton closed the 2012 Women in the World Summit, Oscar-winning actress Streep took to the stage. She compared herself — “as every woman my age has done” — to Clinton: They both were raised in middle class families by big-hearted mothers who encouraged them to lead interesting lives. They both went to public schools and on to prestigious all-women colleges, and then Yale. “But while I became a cheerleader, Hillary became the president of her class,” Streep joked. “And there, the two paths in the woods diverged.” Streep held up her Oscar to show what actresses receive for playing parts well, but, she said, “Hillary is the real deal.” When Clinton emerged on stage, the two shared a long embrace — women at the top of their fields, inspiring other women to aspire to the same.
2010 | ENSEMBLE READING OF SEVEN
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On the 2010 Summit’s opening night, Streep headlined an ensemble reading of SEVEN, a documentary play that told the inspiring personal stories of women from seven countries, created by seven accomplished playwrights. The reading was introduced by Hillary Clinton and directed by Julie Taymor. SEVEN‘s playwrights are Anna Deavere Smith, Ruth Margraff, Gail Kriegel, Paula Cizmar, Susan Yankowitz, Carol K. Mack, and Catherine Filloux. Streep read the role of Irish activist Inez McCormack. In the video above, you can see McCormack’s reaction to Streep’s portrayal of her.
BONUS: 2014 | A YOUNG GIRL’S WAR JOURNAL
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In 2014, Streep caught the flu and could not make it to the Summit at the last minute. Her daughter, Mamie Gummer, spoke in her place and brought to life the moving, stirring words of a young Syrian girl forced to leave her beloved home and country. Gummer said she wanted to tell the young girl that “words matter. Your words matter. You are the young woman I am here for tonight.”