Oscar Winner to Teenagers: “Stay Weird”

In a night that garnered societal calls to action ranging from women’s wage inequality to the disproportionate number of African American men in American prisons, one man’s Oscar acceptance speech earned a standing ovation and international attention.

Graham Moore, a Jewish American writer from Chicago, won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work on The Imitation Game. Graham’s mother, Susan Sher, has served as chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama and is a current NJDC board member.

The movie, which told the story of mathematician and logician Alan Turing’s eventually successful work to decode the Nazis’ message-encryption system during World War II, also chronicled the events that led to Turing’s suicide. After years of being medically “treated” for his homosexuality following a conviction of “gross indecency,” Turing took his own life in 1954. In 2013, the British government apologized for Turing’s conviction and posthumously granted him a royal pardon.

The Imitation Game was also nominated for Best Picture and six other awards. When accepting his award, Moore told the crowd that, at 16, he had attempted suicide because “I felt different and I felt I did not belong.” He ended his speech with a message for teenagers: “Stay weird, stay different, and when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the message on to the next person who comes along.”

Moore was nominated for 16 other awards over the past few months for his screenplay and won four of them, including the Writers Guild of America’s Best Adapted Screenplay.

In addition to Moore, a number of Jewish artists were honored during last night’s ceremony. The award for Best Foreign Language Film was given to “Ida,” a Polish film about a woman who learns her parents were Jews killed in the Holocaust. The director, Pawel Pawlikowski, is the grandson of a Jewish woman killed in Auschwitz. Additionally, the prize for Best Supporting Actress was given to Patricia Arquette, whose mother is Jewish.