AWARDS

Post-Oscar: Forest Whitaker's Brilliant Acceptance Speech

by
February 26, 2007

Forest Whitaker at the OscarsI've been watching the Academy Awards vigorously since I was a young kid. I even remember times on vacations where we had to wheel the one TV out that had cable and flip through the adult channels just to find the Oscars being shown live. I've watched a lot of great actors give their acceptance speeches and those like Halle Berry cry their hearts out on stage. But none other has touched me as deeply and struck a chord so prominently as Forest Whitaker's brilliant speech last night in accepting the Oscar for Best Actor in The Last King of Scotland. I've never really known him before, but his words were some of the most incredible I've heard for an Oscar acceptance speech ever.

If you didn't have a chance to catch the Oscars, or just want to read them again, here's his acceptance speech in full unabridged format.

"Thank you. Thank you. Just a second, just a second. OK. Take it. OK. I wrote something down, because I thought if it would happen that I would be a little overwhelmed and I am. So, OK.

When I was a kid, the only way that I saw movies was from the backseat of my family's car. At the drive-in. And, it wasn't my reality to think I would be acting in movies, so receiving this honor tonight tells me that it's possible. It is possible for a kid from east Texas, raised in South Central L.A. in Carson, who believes in his dreams, commits himself to them with his heart, to touch them, and to have them happen.

Because when I first started acting, it was because of my desire to connect to everyone. To that thing inside each of us. That light that I believe exists in all of us. Because acting for me is about believing in that connection and it's a connection so strong, it's a connection so deep, that we feel it. And through our combined belief, we can create a new reality.

So I want to thank my fellow believers in The Last King of Scotland. I want to thank Peter, Jeremy, Andrea, Lisa, Charles, Kevin, James McAvoy, Kerry, Stephen, Fox, DNA, Channel Four. I want to thank the people of Uganda, who helped this film have a spirit. And finally, I want to thank my mom and my dad. I want to thank my wife Keisha, my children, my ancestors, who continue to guide my steps. And God, God who believes in us all. And who's given me this moment, in this lifetime, that I will hopefully carry to the end of my lifetime into the next lifetime. Thank you."

And now you can actually watch the whole thing again thanks to the joys of YouTube!

Bravo Mr. Whitaker, bravo! I just wanted to show my appreciation and how affected I was by Forest's speech. I hope it will be remembered in history, and I hope his career continues to be incredibly successful.

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  • Kevin Woods
    Honestly, I expected him to be tripping on his words but instead I was really moved by what he said. Pretty damn inspirational! If you noticed, when they flashed to the other nominees, Leo and Will were tearing up. Even guys at the pinnacle can relate to that almighty struggle to find success. 'Congrats Forest... job well done.
  • Charley
    Thank you for posting the text of his speech. I was looking for it somewhere online because it moved me so much. I really admire him!
  • Rochelle
    THANK YOU! Thanks for posting this speech. I was also very moved. These are words that apply to many careers. I will read it often to stay focused on where I have been, the dreams I have and the people I touch along the way. Again, Thank you Mr. Whitaker... (and Alex for the article.)
  • Marilyn Spencer
    I have been a Forest Whitaker far for yrs;since the first thing I saw him in--"Crying Games". For me he is truly one of the greats--He can transport you "into" the place/time/person that he is. The only actor for me that has consistantly done that is Meryly Streep. Transformation IS the name of the game. May he have a long and continuing successful career; and, a happy, healthy life. Long live movies!!
  • Porscha
    This is one of the most amazing acceptance speeches. I think we're all better for hearing it. It was so moving and well-articulated, without being phony. I already had so much respect for Mr. Whitaker as an actor, but now I'm immensely respectful of him as a person. Thanks for posting this so that people can see. Even reading it, it's not hard to see the passion, eloquence and emotion in it!
  • Liam Lockhart
    Thank you so much for posting Mr. Whitaker's beautiful acceptance speech. Upon hearing it last night, I immediately wanted a copy to share with the students in my high-school drama classes. He touched on the essence of that which draws us to the craft - the need to connect with our fellow man.
  • http://www.frenchlessinseattle.blogspot.com dorothy
    thanks for posting this ! it made me cry. one of the best oscars speeches ever.
  • Beth Lucas
    I, too, am grateful it was posted in full. Thank you so much. I thought it was one of the greatest speeches I had ever heard. I was already a fan. I am a greater fan today because I feel he gave us his deepest self. You don't get to know that often in an actor or anyone. Because of Forest Whitaker's speech I have a new added respect for the acting process. Thanks again!
  • Gary Glass
    This speech is the perfect example of the new age movement. "That light that I believe exists in all of us" is the same speech that Satan gave Eve in the garden where he said, "You shall be like gods". I don't know if Forest is into the new age movement, but I wonder what he meant by "we can create a new reality". Thanks for the print, but we have heard before.
  • Donna Marsh
    There's one in every crowd, Gary. You don't even have to make it to a spirituality or religious discussion (or is that where you are trying to steer the discussion). The "light" could be our innate humanity, and if we really recognized it in ourselves and respected the same in others, then we would treat each other better and yes, that WOULD be a new reality, and a new world. It was a beautiful, eloquent speech by a man who was obviously humbled by the honor. It was from the heart.
  • Zach
    I figured that he was just talking about God. Anyway, I will add as everyone else has, a thank you for recognizing this great speech. It definitely touched me and started to bring me to tears. Forrest Whitaker has always seemed very sincere and humble to me and this proved it. Definitely a job well done.
  • Erikua
    I'm also from South Central L.A. and I also have dreams, and to experience other people's dreams come true in the magnitud it has for Forrest inspires me a lot more to continue in the search of success. A beautiful speach and well deserved Oscar. I'm a Mexican-American who had the opportunity to travel to Africa (Ghana) on a six month volunteer program and to watch the Last King of Scotland helped me understand better a reality that many of us choose to ignore. May we learn from this incredible actor who portrayed a reality of what is and has happened in OUR Africa. God bless us all!
  • DM
    Normally I wouldn't say anything to take away a nice moment from someone. And I know this is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. But I have to speak up after everyone keeps mentioning how humble and sincere he was. I was a MILLION times more moved by Alan Arkin's speech, which he was rushing through to keep from breaking down. THAT was sincere, certainly more genuine than this speech, sorry. I know that Forrest Whittaker was most likely actually overcome, but he started doing this performing thing (and I can spot it, I'm an actor and director) with the "just a second, take it [in]" and other points in the speech. It wasn't genuine. The manner in which he was "savoring the moment" was creeping towards pretentiousness. He was acting "sincere," which you can spot a mile off if you've trained as a performer your whole life. The Academy Awards are like Student Council winners in school. 9 times out of 10, the deserving people do not win, just the popular and/or powerful ones. Not saying that was the case with Whittaker. He is a favorite actor of mine, and his performance in LKOS was extremely well-crafted, and inspiring. But that was NOT a humble speech. Come on. The Academy Awards don't mean much artistically, it's a political thing. Winning one is nice when it happens for someone deserving. However, here is a look at the Oscars: Robert Altman NEVER won Akira Kurasowa NEVER won Alfred Hitchcock NEVER won Ingmar Bergmann and David Lynch NEVER won "Raging Bull" lost to "Ordinary People" "Dances with Wolves" was considered a better movie than "GoodFellas" Whoopi Goldberg won for "Ghost" "A Beautiful Mind" won Best Picture "Gladiator" beat out "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" "Driving Miss Daisy" beat out an unnominated "Glory" and "Henry V" Kirk Douglas, Richard Burton, Donald Sutherland, Albert Finney, James Mason, and, yes, Peter O'Toole never won an Oscar "Titanic" was made by two movie studios, so therefore any employee of the two large studios weren't thinking of which movie had the most artistic merit. They were thinking of their retirement funds, and putting money towards it. So that won over the much more deserving "L.A. Confidential." That kind of pedigree reduces the value of an Oscar exponentially. I don't mean to rain on Mr. Whittaker's parade. I have won awards in the past, and they are always a wonderful experience. But anyone who reacts to winning an Oscar (or any award, save maybe the Nobel Peace Prize) as if they have just saved a life or cured cancer turns me off faster than a cold shower. The awards don't mean all that much, and every year, people win who could make you believe half of the voters are lobotomized. You cannot take yourself so seriously as to believe the hype. Otherwise, you've won the statue, but you've lost your soul. Humble would be acknowledging the other actors nominated. Sincere would not be pausing to savor the moment and congratulating yourself on acting in a movie, no matter how important that movie may have been. I'm glad his words touched you. It was well-written. But he's a gifted actor. I couldn't help but see the puppeteer behind the curtain on this one. I hope in the future he wins another award, and trusts himself enough to be natural if and when he does.
  • http://www.Youand.com José Angel Santana, Ph.D.
    In these times, when humankind is in such great need for a greater sense connection between all peoples. It is such a great gift that Mr. Whitakar should model with so much depth of conviction, "connection" with his deeds both as an actor, and as a person with his so eloquent and meaningful speech. Thank you for placing it here to remind us all. Sincerely José Angel Santana http://www.Youand.com "The final frontier may be human relationships, one person to another." -- Buzz Aldrin, Astronaut
  • AT
    wow, DM, you really didn't need to slip in how you're a director/actor and the fact that you've won awards in the past. that's good for you, but it doesn't make your opinion any stronger. "I'm glad his words touched you. It was well-written. But he's a gifted actor. I couldn't help but see the puppeteer behind the curtain on this one." "but he started doing this performing thing (and I can spot it, I'm an actor and director) with the "just a second, take it [in]" and other points in the speech. It wasn't genuine. The manner in which he was "savoring the moment" was creeping towards pretentiousness. He was acting "sincere," which you can spot a mile off if you've trained as a performer your whole life." seriously, get over yourself. odds are no one has ever heard of you, so i dont see how you could expect anyone to care about your say on the matter. you're making it sound like you're some all-mighty performer who knows everything about the acting business; Forest Whittaker's career is higher than yours is or will ever be, so I highly doubt you should talk. "Otherwise, you've won the statue, but you've lost your soul. Humble would be acknowledging the other actors nominated. Sincere would not be pausing to savor the moment and congratulating yourself on acting in a movie, no matter how important that movie may have been." i think Forest was sincere and sweet. he's allowed to savor the moment; winning an oscar doesn't happen every day, I'm sure you'd do the same. i agree that Alan Arkin's words were moving, but you have no right to judge a person on their sincerity by who they thank or how they thank them.
  • http://blog.myspace.com/jayntampa Jay
    I expect Mr. Whitaker was acting ... that's how we all get through emotional times. If you'd seen him previously, he couldn't even get through the speeches he's tried to give. He brilliantly decided to write down what was in his heart so that he could deliver his message. Acting doesn't automatically equate to lying ... he "acted" like he wasn't choked up so he could finish his message. Nothing wrong with that ... after all, the words are still his, and the sentiment is still powerful.
  • Trinity
    We are thirsty to hear such a powerful speech like Whitaker's because we rarely see one these years. He's like a big ripple that moved and touched everyone through the heart. It hit all of us...bull's eye.
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  • Ingrid
    Thank you for posting the acceptance speech of Forest Whitaker. I live in Germany and I didn't tape the last part of the award show, so I had missed it unfortunately. What class this man displayed. What a difference to the ridiculous behaviour of Melissa Etheridge.
  • Barry
    After catching so much flak for being inarticulate at previous award shows, Forest Whitaker did the sensible thing and wrote down what he wanted to say in the most heartfelt words he could think of. Knowing he had to speak them to an audience he, of course, was careful in how he delivered those words. Any idiot (like DM at post 14) who considers this "acting", in the traditional sense, not only doesn't know what he is talking about but also reveals what a narcissitic, jealous and thoroughly insecure human being (or facsimile thereof) he is. Who cares if YOU are an actor and director? What have you acted in? What have you directed? Why were you too cowardly to post your name after disparaging a colleague who has just been recognized for being at the top of his craft? You say YOU'VE won awards. Which ones? For what? If you feel so assured of your opinions (the length of which REEKS of conceit) due to your "success" in the industry then you should have the courage to stand behind them. In fact you should be right out in front of them, being so well versed in your craft(s). You spoke your piece about Forest Whitaker, whose work speaks for itself. It's only fair that we know who you are so that we may comment on yours.
  • Devra
    Well, I'm thrilled that Forest Whitaker won an oscar for his portrayal of Amin in Last King.When I first saw him in "The Crying Game",and later in "Ghost Dog",it was clear to me that he was,and is,a very talented actor.His character in "Panic Room",a desperate father trying to rationalize about the crime he was commiting,while having to deal with two sociopathic partners,only reinforced my opinion of him.Often times,very talented people in the film industry are overlooked for years until the right forces,as it were, come together and suddenly people realize just how well these folks do their job.They,like Forest Whitaker,did not just succeed overnight,but usually have many years of hard work,dedication and quite a number of films under their belt.Some good,some maybe not so good.But, as an actor(as with most everything else)that"s how you hone your craft.Gotta start somewhere,and after years,it"s good to finally see the fickled film industry finally acknowledge Forest Whitaker.Cheers mate!
  • http://www.basilwhite.com Basil White
    Maybe finally, I can get some of my friends to watch Ghost Dog.
  • Nosd
    I came hear looking to read his words again, 9 months later, because I remembered being so inspired by them when he gave them at the awards... and sometimes we all need a little inspiration. Forest Whitaker is a magnificent actor, and I was thrilled he won the award. When he started talking I almost started to cringe as I thought he would bumble through it, then as the meaning of his words hit my brain I felt immediately emotionally struck and awed by what he was saying... as a previous poster says, his words do not just apply to acting, but anyone who chooses a profession in an attempt to connect to others. At that moment as tears welled in my eyes, I felt so connected to him at that moment, and to everyone on the planet who feels the same way. I think that is why some of us were so impressed with his words, because for a moment we all shared that connection with our common humanity - and felt inspired and humbled. Thank you Mr Whitaker, and thank you Alex for posting his words.
  • EDDIE NORWOOD JR
    I REALLY LIKE TO HEAR FOREST WHITAKER ACCEPTANCE SPEECH AT THE OSCAR,PLEASE!
  • trish
    it's nice to see a part of the speech in the 2008 oscar's...thanks for this post...we get to read the whole speech and be inspired over and over again...
  • gracias a deo
    i live overseas and was only recently fortunate enough to see/hear this speech. if you get it, man, do you get it... “Thank you. Thank you. Just a second, just a second. OK. Take it. OK. I wrote something down, because I thought if it would happen that I would be a little overwhelmed and I am. So, OK. When I was a kid, the only way that I saw movies was from the backseat of my family's car. At the drive-in. And, it wasn't my reality to think I would be acting in movies, so receiving this honor tonight tells me that it's possible. It is possible for a kid from east Texas, raised in South Central L.A. in Carson, who believes in his dreams, commits himself to them with his heart, to touch them, and to have them happen. Because when I first started acting, it was because of my desire to connect to everyone. To that thing inside each of us. That light that I believe exists in all of us. Because acting for me is about believing in that connection and it's a connection so strong, it's a connection so deep, that we feel it. And through our combined belief, we can create a new reality. So I want to thank my fellow believers in The Last King of Scotland. I want to thank Peter, Jeremy, Andrea, Lisa, Charles, Kevin, James McAvoy, Kerry, Stephen, Fox, DNA, Channel Four. I want to thank the people of Uganda, who helped this film have a spirit. And finally, I want to thank my mom and my dad. I want to thank my wife Keisha, my children, my ancestors, who continue to guide my steps. And God, God who believes in us all. And who's given me this moment, in this lifetime, that I will hopefully carry to the end of my lifetime into the next lifetime. Thank you.”
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