Getting Schooled: Sterling K. Brown’s Acceptance Speech

Thank you speeches are hard. They are hard to write and they are certainly hard to listen to, especially over and over and over again.

Thank you speeches are boring. We the audience don’t really care about shout outs to managers and agents. A shout to the occasional dog sitter is OK.

A car salesman once told me that what kept him a car salesman was the hope, not a statistical likelihood but a hope, that at any time someone would walk through the dealership doors and actually pay sticker price.

I guess that is why I watch the Emmy’s or any award show. For the hope, not a statistical likelihood but a hope, that someone will deliver a great acceptance speech. It happens every once in a while, like a solar eclipse.

Sterling K. Brown was the solar eclipse at the recent Emmy Award Show. While managing to name a boring list of people, he was entertaining and profound and witty and respectful and knowledgeable and he smiled the whole time.

He prepared his speech in advance whether or not you believe it because he did not read notes. He is an actor. He just won an award for being an actor. I think he can remember two minutes of lines. It’s the winners who don’t take the time to craft a message or think it a bad omen to write a speech in advance, that bore us.

It was a speech only he could have given. That is the ultimate test. Perhaps if you were a young African American male who also went to Stanford, who knew of Dick Whitman, and the Drummonds, you could have given it too. This was his voice, and that is what any speech needs to be.

If you want to know what a thank you speech should sound and look like, listen to his speech . . . a few times.


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