Academy Awards acceptance speeches should be more than thank-yous

Sunday night, a happy cohort of entertainment folks will have their careers sprinkled with fairy dust at the 86thAcademy Awards. And, as happens every year, too many of them will clutch their Oscars and bore an audience of many millions with totally lame acceptance speeches.

You would think that such a distinguished group of creative people could do better, but many of them will spend their precious moment in the spotlight simply checking off a baffling list of names. If it were merely a matter of thanking their parents and their high school drama teachers, that might be OK, especially if they share some poignant bit of personal history in the process. But few will stop with that.

They will thank the studio and their publicist and their agent and their personal assistant and the caterer and the key grip and, as the music from the pit orchestra kicks in, they will rush to name a dozen more. Why is this the default speech at awards ceremonies? Where would we be if politicians did the same?

What if Franklin D. Roosevelt had merely thanked his campaign advisors, his doctors and his barber instead of telling the country “we have nothing to fear but fear itself? 

What if John F. Kennedy had not said “the torch has been passed to a new generation” or encouraged Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country?” What if he had, instead, filled his inaugural address with thanks to his brother for running his campaign and his dad for bankrolling his political career and Ted Sorensen for writing his speeches?

What if Abraham Lincoln had not told us the “honored dead” at Gettysburg had “not died in vain,” but had given the country “a new birth of freedom” so that “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the Earth"? What if he had just thanked all his buddies back in Illinois and the boys in the White House telegraph office?

We would all be poorer for it if speeches were just valentines. So come on, Oscar winners. We know you’re surprised and nervous, but you are on stage -- exactly where you always wanted to be. Give us some wit, some insight, some pathos. You can tell your agent you think he’s swell on Monday.

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