Hollywood may well be going through the most tumultuous period in its history, but at least we have Forest Whitaker to show us that men of true moral conviction, compassion and grace still exist. (Oh, and Tom Hanks, too, of course!)
His speech as he accepted an Honorary Doctorate at the SOAS 2018 graduation ceremonies is testament to that fact. Not a celebrity name drop to be heard. Rather, the veteran actor – who’s still appearing in blockbuster box office smashers such as Black Panther and Star Wars: Rogue One – used his platform and his privileged position to highlight the plight of youth in fragile and disadvantaged communities across the globe.
“In receiving this fellowship I think in particular of those young people that I’m working with in Mexico, South Sudan and Uganda – the kind of places that have been impacted by conflict and armed violence.
“Some have been through painful trials that many adults will never experience in their entire lives. Those who were child soldiers missed many years of their schooling and most of them will never have seen a college. Let me add immediately that these young people don’t want to be seen as victims… they live in the hope and aim of a new future.
“They keep coming up with bright ideas, new ideas to help the youth. The people turn their communities into prosperous spaces, places that are filled with peace.
“They deserve my recognition on this day when I receive this fellowship at SOAS because they are some of my role models. I do believe that their capacity to transform their communities into better places is itself a call for action that everyone must heed.”
Watch the speech in full below:
Forest also took time out to speak to SOAS Blogs. Asked to pick a film he’d starred in to play on a Friday night at the Students’ Union bar, he responded somewhat unsurprisingly with the multi-award-winning The Last King of Scotland.
In that film Forest portrayed the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin – he bagged an Oscar for the performance and was widely credited for his ability to bring nuance and even a sense of empathy to the character. See his response in full via the SOAS Instagram page.
- Forest Whitaker in conversation with SOAS Director Valerie Amos as part of the Centenary Lecture Series.