What the Holocaust and Women of Color Have to do With You

Up until Sunday’s boring Emmy telecast, I thought Sally Field’s 1985 acceptance speech would go down in history as the most memorable.

When Field won her second Oscar for the drama Places in the Heart, the actress, then 38, ecstatically declared, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!”

That line has been quoted and misquoted thousands of times over the years. Whether it was quoted accurately or not, it was remembered. It was remembered because it was memorable.

Even at a Hollywood awards ceremony, many of the speeches are not memorable.

I coach my clients to be memorable, saying great lines, and creating magical moments. Out of the thousands of actors who win Oscars and Emmys, Sally Field made herself memorable with that line. It was a great line because it tapped into the insecurities in all of us.

Sunday’s Emmy telecast was beautiful but boring. I like the red carpet prior to the show more than the show. Four actresses wore pink and red gowns; in case you are wondering what colors will be popular in the upcoming season.

I was not crazy about the “no host” format. Although no one wants to host and no host goes unscathed, I still missed the continuity of one host.

I thought the show was incredibly slow and I lost interest, channel surfing at every opportunity. I did hear the first speech of the night and one of the last.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Alex Borstein got my eyes to fill up with tears, twice. When I first heard her acceptance speech, and again when I heard it replayed a day later. She said her grandmother survived by turning to a guard when “she was in line to be shot into a pit.”

“She said, ‘What happens if I step out of line?’ And he said, ‘I don’t have the heart to shoot you, but somebody will,'” Borstein said. “And she stepped out of line. And for that I am here, and for that my children are here. So step out of line, ladies.”

As a grad student who wrote their thesis on the Holocaust, I give her kudos for figuring out how to bring up the Holocaust at the Emmys. Her message had a power that was both figurative and literal. Sometimes you have to mentally get yourself out of line and sometimes you have to literally get out of the line.

When I had given up hope of anything noteworthy happening petite, Australian blond Michelle Williams walked to the microphone. Who would have figured she would be the one to bring up the difference in income for women of color and the benefit of diversity.

Michelle Williams was memorable, had a great line and made a magical moment.


“And so the next time a woman, and especially a woman of color, because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white, male counterpart, tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her, believe her. Because one day she may stand in front of you and say thank you for allowing her to succeed because of her workplace environment and not in spite of it.”

That’s the thing about speeches. You never know when a magical moment is going to happen. Yes you can see it on YouTube but it is not the same as remembering where you were when it first happened.



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