February 27, 2017

This is Why we Need Celebrities: The Most Powerful Speeches from the 2017 Oscars.


There were some powerful speeches at last night’s Oscars ceremony.

If you google “Oscars 2017” though, most of what shows up will be about the pretty big screw up someone made by handing the wrong envelope to Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, who were onstage to present Best Picture.

Screw-ups and drama make for much more interesting noise—like soap operas.

A year ago, when Leonardo DiCaprio gave a powerful acceptance speech for Best Actor, in which he urged people to care about climate change, someone in the party I was at yelled, “Shut up! Who cares?”

That infuriated me.

Not only had I been waiting years to see DiCaprio receive the award, but I respect someone who can make the best from his position as a celebrity and speak about important and relevant issues, such as climate change.

And throughout Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency, we have heard him discredit anyone who dares to oppose him—from news sources, like the New York Times and CNN, to celebrities like Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.

So, should celebrities speak up about their political opinions?

My opinion is yes. Definitely.

We need celebrities to take the stage and give a voice to those who need it.

We need famous people to make clear, strong statements for the benefit of kindness and unity.

Last night, I was deeply moved by many moments.

There were so many words that gave me hope and made me believe that behind this multi-billion dollar industry, there is still art and, as Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said, “The power of art is that it transcends all these things and as a result, all creative artists around the world are connected by an unbreakable bond.”

And while Jimmy Kimmel did a great job hosting and made smart, witty jokes about the current president of the United States, it was those who came forward when giving or receiving an award who really touched my heart.

When receiving the award for Best Make-up, Italian artist Alessandro Bertolazzi dedicated his award to immigrants all around the United States:

“I am an immigrant. I come from Italy. I work around the world and this is for all the immigrants.”

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose film, “The Salesman,” won the award for Best Foreign Film, did not attend the ceremony as a way of protesting Trump’s immigration ban. Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-American engineer and co-founder and chairwoman of Prodea Systems, delivered his speech.

“My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.”

Mexican actor Gael García Bernal made another important statement right before he delivered the award for Best Animated Feature Film.

“A lot of actors are migrant workers. We travel all over the world, we construct stories, we build life, but cannot be divided. As a Mexican, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I’m against any form of wall that separates us.” 

Director Orlando von Einsiedel and producer Joanna Natasegara, who won Best Documentary Short for “The White Helmets,” created another powerful moment when, after reading a statement from the White Helmets founder, Raed Saleh, they urged the audience to stand up and call for an end to the war in Syria.

“We are so grateful that this film has highlighted our work to the world. Our organization is guided by a verse from the Qu’ran: To save one life is to save all of humanity. We have saved more than 82,000 Syrian lives. I invite anyone here who hears me to work on the side of life to stop the bloodshed in Syria and around the world.”

Many speeches also supported gender identity and race, such as that from “Moonlight” writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, who accepted the award for Best Adapted Screenplay:

“This goes out to all those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender-conforming who don’t see themselves. We’re trying to show you and us. So thank you, thank you—this is for you.”

Kristóf Deák, director of “Sing,” which won for Best Live Action Short, also addressed the future generations and their parents:

“This is dedicated to the only people that can basically make the world a better place—kids. So let’s try and raise them in a good way. Try to raise them in a way we can be proud of them.”

So yes, I believe it is important for celebrities to speak out about relevant issues. It is important for them to take the stage and bring attention to injustice and tell our stories.

And as Viola Davis said during her acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

“Exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. So here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.” 



Author: Montse Leon

Image: @waylonlewis on Instagram; @elephantjournal on Instagram 

Editor: Nicole Cameron

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