Speaking at Vassar’s 132nd Commencement, Tony Award-winning actress Jane Alexander advised the 500 graduates in the Class of 1998 to “follow your gut and don’t take any guff from anyone.”  The former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts in the Clinton administration admitted, “Many of us older people are stuck in the status quo since we are all invested in keeping things pretty much the same as they are, in order to hold on to what we’ve got.”  “There is,” she told the class, “always a better mousetrap to be built, and it is your generation that is going to build it.”     The New York Times

Alexander’s memoir, Command Performance: An Actress in the Theater of Politics (2000) recounted Alexander’s struggle to defend the National Endowment against attempts to abolish it by conservative congressmen and the Christian right.  At the time of her resignation in December 1997 Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, quoted in Dance magazine, praised her “skillfully running the gauntlet of hostile ideological attacks from Congress and brilliantly defending a strong federal role in the arts for communities across the country.”