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Cate Blanchett Calls for Hope in Times of Uncertainty at TIME Women of the Year Gala

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Cate Blanchett dazzled at TIME’s second annual Women of the Year event, held in Los Angeles on Wednesday to honor a range of women who have made deep impacts in their work.

The actor, who is up for the Best Actress Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards for her performance in Todd Field’s Tár, said she was “completely and utterly humbled and overwhelmed” to be at the event which included honorees working toward climate justice, equal pay, and better representation onscreen, among a multitude of fields.

“I’m so stressed I even took off my bra,” Blanchett joked as she took the mic.

But quickly, she turned to talking about weightier topics facing women, reflecting on what she learned from the chorus of other voices in the room.

“As one gets older you feel less in control. As women we often feel like do we need to be in control of everything. Often need to be in control of things individually,” she said. “What has really rung home for me tonight is the only way forward is to try and let go of control.”

Cate Blanchett speaks during the TIME Women of the Year evnt at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on March 08.Stefanie Keenan—Getty Images for TIME

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She made her toast to “not only the women in this room right now but to the millions and millions of women who should be standing at this mic, who should be in this room.”

She stressed the importance of listening and said that is something the honorees are doing. “If we really listen to the things that are not being said, I think we are going to get somewhere really profound.”

Blanchett said that one of the strongest skill actors can present is a quality of listening well to others. “To be a good storyteller you need to listen to the stories that have not been told,” she said. She said the honorees “inspire her” and use their platforms to elevate and have stories heard.

A U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, Blanchett has, for about seven years, worked to raise awareness of the challenges faced by refugees throughout the world. Attending the event with her was Mary Maker, also a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador and a refugee from South Sudan who she mentioned in her toast.

Citing the writer Rebecca Solnit, Blanchett talked about the power of hope in the dark. “The greatest act of courage is to be hopeful.”

She referenced the work of women from previous generations and said “we have a responsibility to work on our shoulders, not just our individual shoulders but our collective shoulders so that more women can stand on our shoulders in generations to come.”

It is important not to turn to negativity she said given the uncertainty in the world at the moment “that can breed a pessimism that creates a misguided certainty of what will happen next.”

“I choose to turn that fear into excitement. There’s an enormous possibility in this fearful space.”

To close she once again paid tribute to the other honorees in the room. “I think change is in this room and it’s alive. It is happening. Women are good at gathering We know how to listen.”

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Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com