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From The Horatio Alger Awards

JAMES EARL JONES ACCEPTANCE SPEECH:

I make my living as an actor. It’s what I do. In my professional life, I’ve been fortunate to be recognized along the way by my fellow actors who have presented me with special awards for particular performances. In other words, I’ve been acknowledged for my acting. And I have been most grateful for the recognition.

The Horatio Alger Award is very different. What makes receiving it especially meaningful to me is that it was given not for a dramatic role I played on stage but rather as recognition of my performance in life. I’m deeply moved by it.

We are all confronted with challenges. Some are greater than others. As far as I know, I have no private muses sitting on my shoulder to guide me. But each of us can recall the people along the way whose helping hand made a difference in lifting us up. For me, it was my grandparents. I called them “Papa” and “Mama.” Papa Connolly was the grandson of a slave and an indentured servant. My grandparents were my roots and my rock. Then there was a special high school teacher who helped me find my voice and break free from what could have been a lifetime of stuttering.

We’re all on this earth such a short time. And yes we want to be remembered for our body of work. But our most important work is what we can do is to make a difference in the life of a child.

I have known what it was like to live in a converted chicken coop with threadbare rugs covering a cold concrete floor. I have known what it is to have absentee parents. But I have also known what it feels like to look out over a field of wildflowers and let the sweet country air wash over me.

Membership in The Horatio Alger Association represents a way by which I can continue to help the youth of America smell the wildflowers. That’s the legacy I would like to leave. Sure I would like to have people say “Yes he was a fine actor”... And even “Remember him? He was that guy with the phone book.” But more importantly I’d like to be remembered as a person who valued the lives of others. The Horatio Alger Award is an acknowledgment that I’m headed in the right direction. Thank you.

HOST ED McMAHON:

Thank you, and good evening.

Only in America is it possible to assemble so many accomplished individuals - so many Distinguished Americans - in one room... and most of you STILL don’t know how to program your VCRs.

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