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Mackenna Lee

Disembark, Grow, Illuminate.

Every award show, whether it be the Oscar’s, VMAs, Emmy’s, Grammy’s, even the Razzie’s has a common element. Yes, the trophies of the golden naked man or silver plated Moon Man are a consistent giveaway. I’d argue the exchange of hardware is a mere footnote.

Each winner at an Awards show stands at the front of a room before a crowd. In addition to a trophy, winners are endowed with 45 seconds. This feels small, especially in consideration to their lauded contributions, which, in the case of movies, can feature runtimes upwards of 2 hours.

Packed in less than one minute, the winners thank people.

Sourced from the runway of a career, the lens of a movie / television show / song, the multitude of a life, the few chosen winners list names.

It is rare in an average person’s life that 1) a stage materializes for gracious monologue and 2) a crowd listens attentively to each word said. Graduations, promotions, weddings, bring shades of these experiences, but nothing rings as venerating as an Oscar crowd’s respectful silence and the winner’s emotional outpouring.

While it is intriguing to hear those who prefer to spend their coveted “Thank You” speech time for social causes, the subject matter frequently divides an audience across political affiliations. The first-time honorees unravel a commonality among us, as their 45-seconds promote the kinship of familial ties and professional influences.

Among us, it leaves a pertinent question: who do we have to thank for our success?

The beauty of the “Thank You” speeches at Awards shows is not richly discussed in media. Though I drool over luxurious gowns and fine performances that are covered in depth, the headlines shout of outfits and ratings. The emphasis is placed on the spectacle rather than the extraordinary staging of a captive audience after a live endowment of recognition.

The opulence prevent our identical replication of “Thank You” speeches, though we possess the makings to imbue a similar fulfillment of the heart.

Step 1: Recognizing You’ve Won

If attuned only to nettlesome details, I will pick internal fights to determine whether an experience netted out to a win. Weighing confidence and humility rides a tricky in-between, too far on one edge and you show hubris; too far on the other and you discount effort.

I’ve counted hundreds of could-be wins as losses simply because they failed to achieve perfection. Fine works of art, deemed impressive and ground-breaking by critics, can still be evaluated as lackluster by an average person. I endlessly honor the merits of the Dark Knight, but I also admit scenes that feel superfluous. The respect and emotional sum of that movie is unchanged, thus reinforcing that achievements are not Black and White. Amy Adams will not announce you’ve won before a cluster of Hollywood’s finest. The onus is on our confidence to raise the number on our scoreboard.

Similarly, we don’t activate greatness in others if we define our future outputs by historical precedence. “I know how to do this, I’ve done this before” closes you from interpretations that inspire new thinking and greatness. Humility breeds creativity and character and gates you from declaring all-encompassing expertise.

We win often, not by collecting the chips of all the players, but through our personal growth and nurturing the growth of others.


Credit: Luis Quintero (

Step 2: Creating a Ceremony

I don’t plan big events, instead preferring to eat at a restaurant, check out a park, or learn about a new museum. Following a to-the-minute agenda on a Saturday gives me heebie jeebies. Though not as orchestrated as an Awards show, I do attempt to build space for gratitude.

I am weary of coming off as patronizing, but I take great effort in detailing when a person has explicitly or implicitly lifted me. For one, it encourages reciprocal behavior, noting positive qualities in others calibrates me to embody those qualities (and hopefully for others to recognize altruism). Secondly, positive behaviors multiply when given a spotlight.

More recently, I write. Hand-written letters, postcards, and notes give longer life to a positive message.

Though, nothing quite matches the honest words and eye contact. It tempers hate, bridges understanding, and quiets distrust.

Step 3: Repeat

The damage of gratitude is low. Our human memories are limited. The investment of reminders and expansion is axiomatically justifiable.

Every recognition I am handed, deserved or not, glows. My family, teachers, dissenters, and bystanders deserve end-roll credits for every accolade. I stand because they’ve provided the materials and the work to mold me.

While I am never finished, I commend my sculptors.



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