March 22, 2012
Author-actress Marlee Matlin’s hands must have been exhausted from all the signing she did at MTSU March 22—and not just because of the 250-plus books she personalized for appreciative fans for more than 90 minutes after her exuberant hourlong lecture.
“All of us have a unique gift to share, and none of us should let anything get in the way of our dreams,” she told more than 600 people in MTSU’s Tucker Theatre in her keynote address for the University’s observation of National Women’s History Month.
“Silence is the last thing the world will ever hear from me.”
The dynamic Oscar-winner captivated the crowd from her first moments on the theatre’s newly renovated stage, prompting laughter and applause when she stepped onto a small box behind the podium.
“I feel … veeeeery tall,” Matlin wisecracked in sign language, prompting a grin from longtime interpreter and business partner Jack Jason as he spoke her words aloud for the hearing members of the audience. “I don’t think I need this box.”
She stepped down, looked around and said, “Now I feel short. And I don’t need this [pushing the microphone away]. That’s what I pay Jack for.”
Her first words set the tone for her entire talk, as she joked about people’s reactions to her deafness in one breath and in the next offered bracingly encouraging advice for anyone facing a challenge.
She discussed her parents’ determination to encourage and support her and their persistence in treating her just like her siblings. Their allowing her to be involved with a local theater program gave her confidence and pride and led to a chance meeting with actor Henry Winkler.
He became a friend and mentor, in part because of his and his son’s own battles with dyslexia, Matlin said, “and 8½ years later, after that first meeting, I was standing on a stage with an Academy Award in my hand.”