Last Saturday, November 19th 2022, Michael J. Fox got honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his contributions to Parkinson’s research. Fox lives with the disease for 30 years already and his foundation has become the biggest provider of funds for research for potential cures. On stage Fox accepted the honorary award and delivered an emotional, humorous and hopeful speech. But before, colleague and good friend, Woody Harrelson honored Michael J. Fox at the 13th Annual Governors Awards.
“The Hersholt Award is given to an individual in the motion picture industry, whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry. To his cause, Michael J. Fox, has brought understanding, empathy and resolve and with it inspiration to millions who now stand a little taller, speaking their voice a little stronger, and hold on just a little tighter to something all of humanity needs a whole lot more of… hope.” – Woody Harrelson on Michael J. Fox
Woody Harrelson presenting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Michael J. Fox during the 13th Governors Awards.— The Academy (@TheAcademy) November 22, 2022
Photo Credit: Michael Yada / ©A.M.P.A.S. pic.twitter.com/pOmVx8Ftcp
As Michael J. Fox got on stage, he referred to Harrelson and himself as the ones that were “80’s famous”. Fox starred in the Back to the Future trilogy and the 80’s sitcom Family Ties and Harrelson got famous for his role of barkeeper in the series Cheers.
A gift that keeps on taking
In the early 90’s, slightly before his 30th birthday, Michael J. Fox got diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder that affects the nerve system. The uncertain prognose of his disease made him struggle and he got in a stage of denial. But when he felt he was ready to tell the world about his diagnosis, he got support from his loved ones, especially his wife Tracy Polman, his colleagues in the entertainment industry and the public. He then started phrasing Parkinson as “a gift that keeps on taking, but truly a gift”.
Michael J. Fox Foundation
In 2000, Fox founded his Michael J. Fox Foundation to raise money for research to eventually find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. He got very engaged to the Parkinson community of patients, doctors and leading scientists in the field. Then he thought that his fame and succes could help him raise money for research, because he found that “the science was ahead of the money and with the right investments, answers could be found.” Since the start of his foundation the foundation raised $1,5 billion for research. For this humanitarian efforts that brought credit to the (motion) industry, the Oscar’s Academy honored Michael J. Fox with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
Humorous speech of gratitude and hope
Woody Harrelson praised his friend Michael J. Fox already for bringing empathy and understanding to millions, who hold on to what humanity should have a lot more of: hope. Fox himself added a lot of hopeful quotes of gratitude to that in his acceptance speech, saying:
“My friend and mentor Gary David Goldberg taught me how to be a dedicated professional actor and a responsible human being; he introduced me to the concept: ‘to whom much is given, much is required’. I hate that it’s John F. Kennedy’s words.”
He began his speech under a loud applause, cracking a joke: “stop it, you’re making me shake.” And he addressed his trembling hands – due to the Parkinson – telling them: “not now” and “stop it”.
To conclude his speech he thanked others for their kindness and efforts. Fox told the crowd:
“I’m grateful for them and for you, because my optimism is fueled by gratitude. And with gratitude, optimism is sustainable.”