Every Oscar winner has their own unique way of celebrating Academy Award glory. Some winners part like there is no tomorrow. Others use the newfound gravitas to build support for their passion project. Sanda Bullock famously went to Astro Burger for a humble yet delicious snack.
And then, there's Joaquin Phoenix. Fresh off winning a Best Actor Oscar for his divisive role in Joker, Phoenix decided to do something deeply personal with his moment of elevated cultural relevance.
Phoenix already made international headlines for dedicating most of his acceptance speech to the cause of the vegan diet. A number of news outlets ridiculed the Gladiator actor for interjecting personal politics and convictions into a night dedicated to celebrating pop culture entertainment. Regardless of whether or not you agree with Phoenix, those critics are definitely wrong in this case. Rather than finger-pointing or name-calling, Phoenix's speech was unifying gesture meant to rally people's support from a point of compassion.
In fact, the most uplifting moment of the entire speech was arguably at the end, when a humble Phoenix addressed his own past personal difficulties and called for an end of "cancel culture" where people lift each other up out of and beyond bad behavior.
But just hours after that speech, Phoenix showed he is a person of personal integrity, willing to put his own words into action.
The 45-year-old Hollywood icon partnered with Farm Sanctuary, an organization dedicated to animal rights, specifically to providing shelter for animals rescued from farms.
In a video released by the organization, Phoenix does something truly special: He rescues a mother cow and her calf from a local California slaughterhouse (whom he later named "Liberty and Indigo") after having a civil conversation with the farm's owner. Not just a simple act of mercy, the moment by Phoenix and Farm Sanctuary shows how compassion and civility can cross bridges over even contemptuous issues.
It almost doesn't matter what side of animal rights issue you fall on. This statement from Phoenix really says it all:
"I never thought I'd find friendship in a slaughterhouse, but meeting Anthony and opening my heart to his, I realize we might have more in common than we do differences. Without his act of kindness, Liberty and her baby calf, Indigo, would have met a terrible demise. Although we will continue to fight for the liberation of all animals who suffer in these oppressive systems, we must take pause to acknowledge and celebrate the victories, and the people who helped achieve them. Shaun Monson, Amy Jean Davis, and the entire LA Animal Save community, have taken their pain of bearing witness and turned it into effective, diplomatic advocacy for the voiceless."
"As a result, Liberty and Indigo will never experience cruelty or the touch of a rough hand. My hope is, as we watch baby Indigo grow up with her mom Liberty at Farm Sanctuary, that we'll always remember that friendships can emerge in the most unexpected places; and no matter our differences, kindness and compassion should rule everything around us."
That's an incredible statement from someone who could so easily use their passion as a platform to shame or attempt to cancel those who disagree with them. If you believe in animals rights, Phoenix just gave a master class in how to bring people over to your side. Make it a discussion with a big tent instead of an argument. This is the civility so many people say they miss these days. And we could all use more moments like it.
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