2014 Academy Awards
Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Lupita Nyong'o, and Jared Leto at the 86th Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
by Addison Cooper, LCSW
The 2014 Academy Awards were celebrated recently. It was the 86th ceremony, but only the second one I’ve watched. (I started writing Adoption at the Movies in 2012, and it seemed like I should probably find out who won the Oscars.) This year, I was particularly excited to watch, because I’ve reviewed several of the nominated films, including two Best Picture nominees (the grippingly emotional stranded-in-space survival story Gravity and the thought-provoking story of the pain caused by closed adoptions, Philomena.) I also was happy to see three of the films I reviewed up for Best Animated Feature—Frozen, The Croods, and Despicable Me 2. They are all fun, and they present good opportunities for family discussions.
Surprisingly, the highlight of the night for me wasn’t finding out who won what; it was Lupita Nyong’o’s enthusiastically grateful acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress. If you missed her speech, you can find it pretty easily with a Google search. In the film adaptation of Solomon Northup’s 1841 memoir, Twelve Years a Slave, Nyong’o played Patsey, a female slave who was abused by her master. Nyong’o thanked the spirits of Patsey and Solomon, acknowledging that her role in the film was a reflection of “so much pain in someone else’s” life. She thanked her director, the other actors, her family, her drama school, her friends, her brother, and her “chosen family,” and encouraged every child that, “no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” It was powerful and uplifting, and perhaps the most joy-filled three minutes I’ve heard on television.
N’Yongo’s speech reminds me of the value of gratitude. She acknowledged who made her successes possible, and in genuinely thanking them, her joy increased.
As I think of her speech, I remember one other. In 1997, Fred Rogers won a Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award for his decades of work on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. After being introduced as “the best neighbor any of us has ever had,” Rogers quietly took the stage to a standing ovation. He chatted briefly with the presenter. After the presenter profusely honored Rogers for telling children “over and over again that they have worth,” Rogers accepted the award. Then he said, “So many people have helped me to come to this night. Some of you are here. Some of you are far away. Some are even in Heaven. All of us have special ones who have loved us into being.” He then asked the celebrities in attendance, “Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Those who have cared about you, and wanted what was best for you in life.” Then he said, “I’ll watch the time.” And then he did. After the time elapsed, Rogers commented, “Whomever you’ve been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they’ve made.” Then he proceeded to thank those who have helped him.
It’s not only celebrities that have people who have cared about them and influenced their lives. It’s also our clients. The phrase that sticks with me is: “Those who have cared about you, and wanted what was best for you in life.” As social workers, perhaps we are some of the people that our clients will think of when they reflect on people who have cared for them and wanted the best for them. I hope that’s the impression our clients take from our work with them. Whether that is the case is probably influenced both by the work we do, and the spirit we do it in.
It’s not just our clients, though. We, too, have been helped and brought to where we are by others who have cared about us and wanted the best for us. It might have been friends, colleagues, supervisors, parents, professors, or mentors, but none of us make it into social work without support. Someone helped guide you to higher education. Somebody influenced your life—knowingly or not—to make you consider social work as a field of study or a field of work. And now, here you are.
Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are? Those who have cared about you, and wanted what was best for you in life?
I’ll watch the time.
Addison Cooper is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in California and Missouri. He reviews films and writes movie discussion guides for foster and adoptive families at Adoption at the Movies (www.adoptionlcsw.com), and is a supervisor at a foster care and adoption agency in Southern California. Find him on Twitter @AddisonCooper.