Oscar Gets a Voice

For one day each year the world watches the Academy Awards televised broadcast (and streaming video) with great anticipation. Who will stroll down the red carpet? What divine designs will women wear? What will the Oscar winners say during their acceptance speeches?

This year I was pleasantly surprised that several celebrities colored outside the lines a bit and delivered thoughtful, heartfelt acceptance speeches. In years past, I often marveled at the speech-less-ness of award recipients who inserted awkward uh’s, um’s, you know’s, and oh’s as they stumbled through the most important speech they would ever make. Not this year. Instead of the ordinary, “I would like to thank my agent, and I would like to thank my director, and I would like to thank my fellow cast members…”, the messages were clear and thought provoking. Here are my top picks, in no particular order:

Patricia Arquette (Best Supporting Actress, Boyhood): Arquette used her limited time on the platform to espouse equal pay. Even Meryl Streep shouted a resounding “Yes!!” from her front-row seat.

Common and John Legend (Best Song, Glory, Selma): Co-writers and performers Common and Legend reminded us that 50 years after the historic walk in Selma, our country and the world still struggles with racial injustice and inequality. Their words encouraged us to reflect on what we can do as individuals to continue the fight.

Julianne Moore (Best Actress, Still Alice): My mother-in-law, who passed away in 2013, had Alzheimer’s, so I was pleased to hear Julianne Moore use some of her acceptance speech to educate the audience about the disease.

J.K. Simmons (Best Supporting Actor, Whiplash): Simmons urged viewers around the world to call their mom or dad if they are fortunate enough to still have them on this Earth. I love calling my 94-year-old mom. My dad? I talk to him too and have been reunited with him several times in my dreams.

Graham Moore (Best Screenplay Adaptation, The Imitation Game): Moore spoke openly about his attempt at age 16 to commit suicide. That took courage. He encouraged the audience to celebrate what makes anyone unique and to be more open minded in trying to understand others who are different.

AskHerMoreInstagramSmallReese Witherspoon: Although her work in Wild did not earn her an Oscar, her voice was heard more from the red carpet and social media than from the stage. Witherspoon posted an Instagram supporting #AskHerMore, part of The Representation Project started last year by Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. The Instagram encouraged red carpet interviewers to ask deeper questions than just “Who are you wearing?”

Watching the Academy Awards got me thinking: If you were standing on a platform that could reach millions of people around the world, what powerful message – of hope or change – would you choose to share with your audience?

Is It Any Wonder, Stevie?

StevieWonderIs it any wonder that a blind man can show others how to open their eyes and see the world with compassion, joy and love? Acclaimed songwriter, singer and 22-time Grammy Award winner Stevie Wonder was honored recently for his musical genius spanning more than five decades. His messages of acceptance, understanding and love have taught generations to face inequality, injustice and indignity with unified strength and grace.

His honest interpretation of the world as he saw it encouraged people of color to stand up and let their voices be heard. To the audience of privilege and perfection, he exposed them to the reality of life in the city for the poor, the forgotten and the invisible. His music range, as a solo artist, is unparalleled. He wrote openly of indifference. He wrote of political action and justice. He wrote so eloquently of love, birth and renewal. He wrote songs of hope, light and possibilities.

I remember watching “Little Stevie Wonder” perform Fingertips on the Ed Sullivan Show when I was growing up. His passion for the music, his gyrations to the crisp notes flying from his harmonica made me stop and notice. He was just two years older than me, and already a force to be reckoned with. Nothing stopped him from sharing his musical messages with the masses. He remains one of the most beloved artists – and greatest crossover artists – of all time.

My husband, Mark, and I have shared a love of Stevie Wonder’s music over the decades of our relationship. To this day, Ribbon in the Sky remains my all-time favorite. Mark’s favorite (and he requests it at every event we attend that has a DJ) is Superstition. When we finished watching the CBS-TV broadcast on Monday night, I turned to Mark and said, “We need to play Stevie Wonder’s music more often!” He nodded in agreement.

There are so many lessons we can learn from Stevie Wonder. For me, the greatest lesson he has demonstrated: Lead by example. He is a man who has remained authentic throughout his entire life. He has shared his vision of a peaceful planet with millions of people around the world. He remains an inspiration to us all and a cherished national – and international – treasure. Rock on, Stevie!


Write a Love Note, Adult Style

AValentineGirlOpenjpg004The biggest “love day” celebration comes on Valentine’s Day – February 14 – each year, when people remember the people they love and admire the most by offering a card, a call, chocolates, dinner or a gift.

When I was in elementary school, beginning the first week of February, each student would bring in a shoe box, decorated as a repository for classmates’ valentines professing their love (or like) to you. Even the kids who nobody liked received and gave valentines as a sign of unity. With some glue and scissors in hand, I would cut multiple hearts out of red construction paper and add a few of my mom’s paper doilies, add my name – Christine – in big letters (in crayon, of course), and proudly display it at the back of the classroom with the others students’ boxes. Of course I hoped that mine would stand out so my classmates would simply have to put a valentine in my decorated box. The memory is vivid because it was the one time of the year when appreciation was shown through giving and receiving.

In my workshops, people often tell me how much it means to them to receive recognition. “All I want to know is if I’m doing a good job.” “I would like to receive some feedback more often than just during my annual performance review.” Words cost less than valentines. Words cost nothing, yet they can bring such joy and delight when they are sent with love, kindness and good intention.

AValentineGirlClosedjpg003I purchased this adorable valentine at an antique store years ago and recently rediscovered it while cleaning out some drawers. It got me thinking that we need to share our love, appreciation and gratitude with people who mean the most to us more than just once a year. Imagine how different your life would be if you brought the spirit of Valentine’s Day into your daily activities.

Who in your life would you like to give a valentine to? That valentine can come in any form: A written letter, a card, a brief phone call or even an email or text message. Whether it is love or gratitude that you want to acknowledge, appreciation or a thank you for a kind gesture, take the time to do it. People in your life will truly appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Invite an Outsider In

openhand“Get outside your comfort zone.” “Push the envelope.” “Be more.”

You have been in conversations or meetings where statements like these were made, reminding you to shake off any complacency. When you apply these commands to your interaction with people, your mindset (hopefully) shifts.

In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, author Susan Cain reminds us that not every person is socially outgoing. She points out that introverts, while quiet and contemplative, have a lot to contribute. They just may need to be invited into the conversation.

Introverts can often feel like outsiders, especially in a room full of extraverts. Whether you are an introvert or an extravert, take a moment to observe the behavior of your co-workers and clients. Does that person need encouragement or a nudge to share their thoughts and opinions? It could be you who invites that outsider into the conversation. The result could be uncovering some brilliant ideas. It begins with some simple questions:

What are your thoughts about…?

I would like to hear your opinions about…?

Your comments are valuable to me. What information can you share about…?

Initiate a conversation with the other person. If you would like to hear more about a certain topic, simply say, “Tell me more about that” or “Could you explain that to me a little further?”

As you scan the room at an event or a meeting, look for the person who sits on the sidelines, against a wall rather than at the table. Extend an invitation to sit at the table. Open up the space for that person to share her/his voice. Sometimes you need to gently pull someone along with you.

If you are that introvert, challenge yourself to make small changes in your interactions with other people. Those small changes over time will give you the confidence to be more open with your ideas, thoughts and opinions. An example: If you have an idea that is worth sharing, write it on your To Do List to bring it up at the next meeting. Once you get into the habit, you will feel more comfortable with other people and yes, even the extraverts.