Matthew McConaughey’s refreshing, honest Oscar acceptance speech

Matthew McConaughey accpetance image - screen shot
Matthew McConaughey accpetance image - screen shot

LOS ANGELES, March 4, 2014—During Sunday night’s 86th Annual Academy Awards, Matthew McConaughey walked away with the Best Actor Oscar for his incredible performance as Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club. But before walking away, Matthew gave one of the more refreshing speeches of the night.

Of course, the news sources, nitpickers, and naysayers brought out the long knives concerning not only the content, but the delivery of Matthew’s speech. Picking nits with acceptance speeches has become common sport ever since Sally Field’s 1985 Places in the Heart acceptance speech: “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” Sally gushed. But the current commentary surrounding Matthew’s speech seems a tad reaching.

Salon writer Daniel D’Addario compared the speech to Lupita Nyong’o’s, praising hers, while using words like “megalomania” and “narcissistic” to describe Matthew’s approach. This criticism is mainly because Matthew failed to acknowledge the gravity of the part he played of an AIDS patient, nor give proper due to the thousands who have died from the disease.

Time Entertainment used the word “confounding” to describe the speech, and claimed to explain—although all they did is sum up—what the speech means.

One thing that has so far not been said about Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar acceptance speech: Breath of fresh air. With all the self-aggrandizement of the night, his speech was surprisingly humble, delightfully human, and incredibly real. Most likely practiced, definitely prepared, but heartfelt, honest, and a bit rough around the edges; much like the characters Matthew has portrayed throughout the years.

The actor started with the appropriate “kissing of the rings”, thanking the Academy and his fellow nominees, as well as his co-stars, Jared Leto, and Jennifer Garner.

Matthew then went on to frame the rest of his speech around three things that he needs each day: someone to look up to, something to look forward to, and someone to chase.

Who he looked up to is God. Matthew actually thanked God—one of the few winners who did. “He has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand. He has shown me that it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late Charlie Laughton, who said, ‘When you’ve got God, you got a friend. And that friend is you.’”

Not only did this render tepid response from his peers in the audience, but it unleashed a raft of distaste in the Twitterverse.

MTV host Andrea Chapman  noted the weak sauce response from the crowd.

While Sean really did not appreciate the mention of Matthew’s higher authority:

Oscar Tweet
Oscar Tweet


Matthew continued, graciously thanking his family by giving homage to his late father, his mother, and brothers. His vulnerable and transparent words to his wife and children was breathtaking. “[T]he courage and significance you give me every day I go out the door is unparalleled. You are the four people in my life that I want to make the most proud of me. Thank you.”

Matthew’s last necessity was someone to chase, and that someone is himself 10 years in the future. As we saw from Sean’s Twitter post above, this was also a befuddling concept to some.

What is so difficult about this? Being your own best competition has been a tool of motivational speakers from Zig Ziglar to Tony Robbins. One of the diseases of Hollywood, and something that probably produces much of the addiction issues, is the competition and comparison. Not being good enough, pretty enough, talented enough, the list goes on. Matthew’s principal of chasing after himself 10 years later is not only casting vision for what he wants out of life, but it gives one measurable, attainable goals to successfully strive toward that life.

Writer Steve Young said it well, “The principle is competing against yourself. It’s about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before”

Not sure why people have a problem with that, or see it as narcissistic or self-aggrandizing. Call it what it is: a healthy self-esteem. With the dearth of role models in today’s Hollywood, having a person who honors and acknowledges something beyond himself, holds family in high esteem, and has his eyes on a prize and strives for it daily, should be applauded, not criticized.

This writer has gained a new appreciation for Matthew McConaughey and his approach to his craft and his life. He did the work, the Academy gave him the award, and he could say, or not say what he wanted. That’s the blessing of free speech in America.

What he did say was profound, and we are the better for having heard it.

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  • PaulaCarrasquillo

    I liked his speech for the very same reasons you listed. I’m not a loyal fan of his, but I could recognize and feel the sincerity in his delivery. Thank you!

  • Jennifer O O’Connell

    You are very welcome! Thank you for reading.

  • OhSayCanYouSee

    I also like what you wrote–it was exactly what I was looking for when I used bing to see what Matthew has said about certain subjects. The purpose of my search was to decide if I wanted to go see his new movie. I think I will. Thank you for your good writing.