RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.: And the Academy Award goes to … never giving up
There are few things more admirable than the ability to take a mighty punch.
March 16, 2023 - 9:00 pm
At the 2023 Academy Awards, the runaway winner was — perseverance.
Knowing how to respond to success, especially if it happens early in life, can be challenging for some. Still, it’s nothing compared with learning how to deal with failure. Years of having doors slammed in your face, not getting calls returned, losing jobs or watching less-qualified people get opportunities you feel you deserved can be debilitating.
There are few things more admirable than the ability to take a mighty punch — or a combination of them — that sends you to the floor and still manage to get back up on your feet.
Perseverance is my favorite human attribute. It comes in ahead of intelligence, courage, humility, honesty, integrity and the rest.
It’s what we should teach our children. They need to understand that they’re not going to get everything they want in life and that their character will be defined by how they respond to setbacks and disappointments.
Some throw in the towel at the first sign of adversity. But those people rarely achieve greatness or leave their mark on the world. The folks who do that are the ones who don’t give up, no matter how bleak things look.
Sooner or later, perseverance pays off. Just look at who took home Oscars this year in the top four acting categories: Brendan Fraser (best actor), Michelle Yeoh (best actress), Jamie Lee Curtis (best supporting actress) and Ke Huy Quan (best supporting actor).
All four are Hollywood veterans, with more than a century of total acting experience. And they have something else in common: decades of overcoming disappointment, whether it was lost movie roles, health problems or other setbacks.
At various points over the past 30 or 40 years, a few of them had their acting careers declared over. Some of them have said publicly that they almost gave up on their dreams, after years of watching movie roles evaporate or go to other actors. Their life stories illustrate just how brutal and unforgiving Hollywood can be.
What they say about Washington, D.C., also applies to Tinseltown: One minute, you’re the toast of the town. The next minute, you’re just toast.
Fraser has had a number of surgeries — including spinal surgery and a partial knee replacement — to correct injuries suffered over years of doing his own stunts on movie sets.
Curtis has had dozens of movie roles since her breakthrough performance in the horror film “Halloween” in 1978, when she was just 20. Yeoh has also been in dozens of movies, including a stint as a “Bond girl” in a James Bond film. And yet both women have noted that, in Hollywood, parts for actresses of a certain age are hard to come by.
Quan, a onetime child star in films such as 1984’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” gave up on acting for two decades because there were so few roles for Asian actors. With encouragement from his wife, Echo, he later got back in the business. And he got a part in the acclaimed science-fiction comedy “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
You know the rest of the story. Quan, who was born in Vietnam, was crying as he held a firm grip on his gold Oscar statuette. “My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp. Somehow I ended up here on Hollywood’s biggest stage,” Quan said. “Dreams are something you have to believe in,” he continued. “I almost gave up on mine. To all of you out there, please keep your dreams alive.”
At that point, I’m sure, across America and around the world, Quan wasn’t the only one weeping. Behold the power of perseverance.
There’s a quote that has been attributed to Winston Churchill, the British prime minister who helped our friends across the pond keep a stiff upper lip as the Allies battled the Nazis during World War II. It goes like this: “Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.”
The idea of never giving up is a recurring theme in Churchill’s speeches, letters and interviews. It resonates today. These times are not easy and carefree. And yet “Never give up” is a message that never goes out of style. Never. Never.
Americans need to hear the message now, loud and clear. This year’s Oscar ceremony served it up. For that, we should all thank the academy.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.