I didn't prepare a speech because I just wanted to feel whatever this is. Because Maria is so correct, it's very difficult for me to open myself to receive what people have to offer. And so tonight I came prepared to be open, and I would like to thank the Board of Governors for the opportunity to receive the love, and the Oscar.
I never imagined myself receiving an Oscar, certainly not for doing what I believe is a part of my calling, is a part of my being. It's a part of why I am here. And what I know for sure is the only reason I am here is because Quincy Jones was in a hotel in Chicago in 1985, and was taking a shower, and was there for a lawsuit, that somebody was suing Michael Jackson saying that they were the girl of the song, or whatever. And he saw me on "A.M. Chicago" and said, "I think that's Sofia." So I would like to thank Quincy Jones, who is in Dubai right now.
But Quincy Jones was a part of a divine manifestation for me. Those of you, anybody here who's ever watched "The Oprah Show" has heard me tell the story of how I first watched, first read The New York Times review on a Sunday about "The Color Purple." I read the review, because the book review is the first thing I ever look at on The New York Times. And Stedman and I to this day, it's like, "You want the book review?" I go, "You read the front section. I'll read the book review first." And I read the book review of "The Color Purple." And was in my pajamas, put on my coat, in Baltimore, and went to the bookstore and got the book. And from that moment became, literally, drawn to, in some kind of mystical way, to that story. Mainly because the character... The first line of the book is, "Dear God, I'm fourteen years old..." And I had lived that life and couldn't imagine that someone was able to put into words what I had already experienced.
And so began this journey that I was able to really understand that God's hand, or power greater than myself, "the forces," as Sidney Poitier calls them, were engaged in leading my life to a plane and a level that I had not even imagined. But I released myself to those forces, and literally said inside myself, "Thy will be done." And as a part of that journey, to be here tonight... Maria touched on it but it is really -- Stedman and I talk about this all the time. It's unimaginable if you are not a black, former colored girl, born in Mississippi in 1954, it's impossible for you to even know what this journey has meant. I know Larry Gordon, Mississippi Jew [laughs], almost as rare as I am [laughs], can begin to understand what that means, to be born in 1954 in Mississippi.
When I saw "The Help," and first heard that there was gonna be a movie called "The Help," and first read the book, "The Help," I thought that is my story. My grandmother was a maid. Her mother was a maid. The mother before her was a slave. My mother was a maid. My grandmother's greatest dream for me was that I would grow up in a family and have a career where... She used to say, "I hope you get some good white folks. I hope you get some good white folks like I have. I have good white folks." And the only picture I have of my grandmother is of her holding a white child in her maid's uniform. So, the journey from Kosciusko, Mississippi, where nobody ever even imagined it possible that you could be anything other than a maid who had some good white folks, who would give you clothes and would let you take food home on the holidays. It's unimaginable that I would be standing before you, voted by the Board of Governors... It's unimaginable. It's unimaginable. It's unimaginable. It is unimaginable! And so when I say thank you, the thank you comes from a place deeper than even I know, Sharon [Stone]. Even deeper than I know. Because it's not just from me, it's from everybody who made me possible. It's from every shoulder I ever stood on, every bridge I ever crossed, every story that's ever told, every story that ever imagined this day to be possible.
I thank you for this award. And I will... What this means for me is, I woke up this morning, I said, "What is Oscar? What is a... Oscar...?" You know, I grew up wanting to be an actress and my father, being a barber and coming from the culture that he came from, said, "No daughter of mine's going to be laying on some casting couch." That was his idea of what being an actress meant. And so when the opportunity showed itself to me, to be a part of "The Color Purple," it really is, was divine intervention, just to be a part of being able to share that story. I knew that something special, magical, a door had opened to me. And after that door came "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and many other doors. But a door opened to me through the magic and majesty of film. The ability to tell stories in such a way that you connect to the heart-space of people, and you connect to the place where people really live, and not just live but where their souls abide, that is what great films do. And to this day, "The Color Purple" experience is one of the greatest experiences of my life.
And yes, I'd like to do more films, but to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award means more to me than any film, any acclaim, even an Oscar. Because what it says is that you all get it. The Board of Governors, you get it. You get that what I've been trying to do and what I've been trying to say all these years is that every single person, Ayanna, and all of you and every person I've spoken to in over fifty thousand interviews of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," every single person who incarnates here to the planet matters. Your life matters. You matter. What you do matters. The fact that you are here, that you are born, that your presence here on earth means something. That's what I've been trying to say through all of my work, be it film, be it "The Oprah Winfrey Show," be it the magazine, it is that we all matter. And what I really, really, really, really know for sure, is that this award to me represents all of you, sitting in a room -- I don't know how this happens. The governors, I don't know who you are. But when I got the call from Tom [Sherak] I was literally on a hike in Hawaii, and I get the call. The Academy has called! Security comes for me and says, "You must come down from the mountain now! Stop the hike because Tom from the Academy is on the phone." And then Larry Gordon is saying, "Answer the phone! Answer the phone!" And I'm like, whaaat...? Okay! What this really means is that you all understand that what I've been trying to do and what I've tried to say all these years, is that all us can make a difference through the life that we live.
And when you understand, as I do, that this to me, I'm gonna allow this Oscar... Like I've interviewed everybody over the years and say, "Where do you keep your Oscar?" And people are always so nonchalant about it and they say: "Oh my, I keep it in my bathroom." "I don't know where mine is." "My sister has it." Well my new sister, my sister who I just discovered last year, this time last year, is here. Pat is here. I will say she will not have it; I will have it! And it will be on, I will keep it on my desk in front of me to remind me that you have voted for me. You have voted for what I believe is the essence of why we're all here. We're all here to help each other. We're all here to use our lives in service to one another. And nobody who has ever, ever done any kind of work... I mean I run a girls school and those girls are gonna be graduating from college. The first in their families to ever graduate from college. The first in their families to ever graduate high school. And those girls are coming to the United States and they're going to Wellesley and they're going to Brown and they're going to Tufts and they're going to all the great universities. And I will tell you that anybody who's ever done that, done any kind of work where you are hands on, where you're up on the phone and you're on at four o'clock in the morning and two in the morning and whatever, you're not doing that because you think you're gonna get an Oscar one day. You're doing it because you believe in the power of every human being who has come to this planet. And you know that these are all bodies, but inside the bodies there's a soul and a spirit and a power greater than we know. And for me this Oscar will represent love from all of you. I thank you for your vote of love and I will use it to increase the open space in my heart to continue to do the great and good work that we've all come to do and serve. Thank you so much.