Leonardo DiCaprio's Oscar acceptance speech reminds us of 5 reasons we love the guy.

Since he sailed onto millions of middle school bedroom walls in "Titanic," Leonardo DiCaprio has been winning the Oscar of our hearts on a daily basis. Now, at long last, he's finally won an Oscar IRL.

A swanky man. Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images.


Even though this is Leo's first win, he's been doing award-worthy work on the sly for some time now — on issues arguably more important than whether one 19th century dude can make it over a mountain with freezing wet hair.

"Climate change is real. It is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species," DiCaprio said in his acceptance speech.

It's not the first time Leo has gone to bat for the Earth and the most vulnerable folks who live on it. Here are five other times we wish we could give him a golden statue for.

1. The time he stood in front of the UN and begged politicians and CEOs to stop pretending that global warming was someone else's problem.

Lots of celebrities have pet causes. Angelina Jolie has orphans. George Clooney has Haiti and Darfur. Aaron Carter has Donald Trump.

Leo? He's taken on the minor task of preventing the complete, apocalyptic annihilation of the human race at its own hands.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

And he doesn't just talk the talk, he talks the talk in front of some of the most powerful people on planet Earth. Here's what he said at the UN back in September 2014:

"This is not a partisan debate. It is a human one. Clean air and a livable climate are inalienable human rights. Solving this crisis is not a question of politics. It is a question of our own survival. This is the most urgent of times and the most urgent of messages."

Dude knows how to give a speech.

2. The time he bro'd out with John Kerry in Paris and helped secure perhaps the most important international agreement on climate change in history.

John Kerry and Leonardo DiCaprio have a lot in common. They're both human males. They've both appeared on great American sitcoms (seriously!). And, most importantly, they both went to bat for #TeamEarth in Paris in December.


That meeting they were at? It ultimately produced the Paris Agreement, a landmark climate charter between 195 nations of the world, all of whom committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

These are countries that ... don't always agree with each other, to put it mildly. I'm not suggesting DiCaprio was single-handedly responsible, but I wouldn't be surprised if Xi Jinping's office contains 18 newly-signed copies of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape."

Just saying.

3. The time he used an acceptance speech to speak up for the rights of Native Americans and First Nations people around the world.

In his Golden Globes acceptance speech for "The Revenant," Leo gave native communities worldwide a much-needed, well-deserved shoutout.

The reason? To remind an audience of millions that their struggle for land rights continues to this day — something that rarely gets a lot of attention, especially at a big Hollywood awards show.

Some have criticized "The Revenant" for relegating Native American characters to the background, while others have praised it for accurately depicting the native characters it does feature as belonging to distinct, competing tribes with unique cultures. Leo couldn't have used his visibility better in this moment.

Respect.

4. The time he promised to stop investing in fossil fuels and started putting his considerable monies toward greener ventures.

Not only is DiCaprio part of the Divest Invest Coalition, which urges investors and organizations to take their money out of companies that contribute to climate change, he's an investor in a startup that's attempting to use mobile technology to make waste disposal cleaner and more efficient.

This way, the greener our trash hauling economy becomes, the richer Leonardo DiCaprio gets — and the more likely he gets a Spruce Goose in real life.

GIF from "The Aviator."

Powered by emission-free hydrogen fuel cells of course.

5. The time he pledged $10 million of his foundation's money to save Earth's oceans.

In addition to ponying up the cash, Leo has spoken out forcefully against the destruction of aquatic ecosystems, for the rights of people living on the low-lying islands of the Pacific who are struggling with sea-level rise and for the health of Earth's oceans general.

"We're plundering the ocean and its vital resources," DiCaprio said in a speech to the Our Ocean Conference in October 2014. "And just because we can't see the devastation from dry land, does not mean it's any less dangerous to life on earth. And it has to stop."

This is a huge step for Leo. Let's not forget, this is a man who drowned in the ocean just 19 years ago.

GIF from "Titanic."

Way to let bygones be bygones, Leo!

And congrats on the big win! This award is deserved not just for one great performance but for everything he's done to make the world a better place.

Thanks for fighting the good fight, Leo. Can’t wait to see what you do next.

Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

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Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

Keep Reading Show less
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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."