Winner of the Best Actor award for his performance in Joker, Joaquin Phoenix accepted his first-ever Oscar with a thought-provoking acceptance speech. He spoke about societal inequality, an egocentric worldview which harms animals and a quote from his late brother, musician and animal activist River Phoenix.
Here’s his speech in full:
I’m full of so much gratitude right now and I do not feel elevated above any of my fellow nominees or anyone in this room because we share the same love of film and this form of expression has given me the most extraordinary life. I don’t know what I’d be without it but I think the greatest gift that it’s given me is the opportunity to use our voices for the voiceless.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing collectively and I think at times we feel or are made to feel that we champion different causes but for me I see commonality. I think whether we’re talking about gender equality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice, we’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation one nation, one people, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity. I think we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world and many of us, what we’re guilty of is an egocentric worldview. The belief that we’re the center of the universe.
“We go into the natural work and we plunder it for its resources. We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and when she gives birth we steal her baby even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable and then we take her milk that’s intended for a calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal and I think we fear the idea of personal change because we think that we have to sacrifice something to give something up.
“But human beings at our best are so inventive and creative and ingenious and I think that when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment.
“Now I’ve been a scoundrel in my life. I’ve been selfish. I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with and I’m grateful. But so many of you in this room have given me a second chance. And I think that’s when we’re at our best when we support each other not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes but when we help each other to grow when we educate each other, when we guide each other towards redemption, that is the best of humanity.
“When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric he said ‘run to the rescue with love and peace will follow’.