Beautiful words at the Academy Awards

Late last night, shortly after the Oscars wrapped up, I posted this on my Facebook page:

I want to believe it is significant that at the whitest, malest Oscars in recent years, the night’s most rousing, most meaningful speeches were by a woman demanding equal pay for women, two African-American men spreading hope and compassion while still keeping our awareness on the continuing struggle for racial justice, a suicide survivor speaking hope and strength to every kid who might feel “weird,” and a Mexican teaching us about equality in true art and calling for more compassionate treatment of the immigrants who built and are still building America.

I don’t want their words to get lost in the reporting of tonight’s Oscars. I want their speeches to mean something.

My writer friend Marie Marshall agreed and wondered if there were transcripts available, to preserve their words. There probably are, but it’s early hours and the best I’ve found are videos accompanied by pull-quotes, so I decided to transcribe the speeches myself (parentheses link to videos of the speeches):

Patricia Arquette (best supporting actress, Boyhood):

To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!

Common (best song, “Glory,” from Selma):

Recently, John and I got to go to Selma and perform ‘Glory’ on the same bridge that Dr. King and the people of the civil rights movement marched on fifty years ago. This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation but now is a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and social status. The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the south side of Chicago, dreaming of a better life, to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression, to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy. This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion and elevated by love for all human beings.

John Legend (best song, “Glory,” from Selma):

Nina Simone said it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live. We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were fifty years ago, but we say that Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for fifty years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now, the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today then were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you we are with you, we see you, we love you and march on.

Graham Moore (best adapted screenplay, The Imitation Game):

When I was sixteen years old, I tried to kill myself, because I felt weird, and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here. And, so, I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird, or she’s different, or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes you do. I promise you do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.

Alejandro Iñárritu (best director, Birdman)

Honestly, this is crazy, in a way, talking about that little prick called ego. Ego loves competition, because, for someone to win, someone has to lose. But the paradox is that true art, true individual expression, as all the work of these incredible fellow filmmakers, can’t be compared, cant be labeled, can’t be defeated, because they exist. And our work only will be judged, as always, by time.

Alejandro Iñárritu (best picture, Birdman)

I want to dedicated this award for my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico. I pray that we can find and build the government that we deserve. And the ones that live in this country, who are part of the latest generation of immigrants in this country, I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

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