Meryl Streep and Michelle Obama share wisdom as graduation speakers

Meryl Streep picked up yet another award on Monday, but this time there was no red carpet to walk down as the veteran actress traded in her glamorous ball gowns for a simpler look: a university graduation robe.

The Oscar winner was presented with the Medal of Distinction at Barnard College, a women's university in New York, and was also the ceremony's speaker, happily sharing her wisdom with the 600 graduates.

"If you are touched by the success fairy you are duty-bound to spread what you know around like fertilizer," Meryl remarked, adding that she was "honoured and humbled to pass on tips".

The Julie & Julia star focused her speech on achievements made by women over the years and urged the graduates to continue seeking change in the world.

She told them that they "need to look forward to speeding progress in areas of suffering. There is only change, resistance to it, then more change."

Another inspirational woman who took on the role of commencement speaker was First Lady Michelle Obama, who addressed graduates of George Washington University on Sunday and was named Honorary Doctor of Public Service.

Michelle had promised to speak at the graduation if students completed 100,000 hours of community service by May 1, which clearly motivated them, as they surpassed her goal by more than 60,000 hours.

Michelle, who applauded the students' contributions to the Washington, DC area, told them: "I have one more request to make of you, one more challenge, and that is: Keep going. Keep giving. Keep engaging."

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