From The Joker to a Catalyst for Change

BY Ashleigh Wilson
The Best of Humanity Always Wins Awards: Watch Joaquin Phoenix's Moving Speech Below

No human being is so bad as to be beyond redemption. – Gandhi

“I have been a scoundrel my whole life,” actor Joaquin Phoenix declares in front of the prestigious Oscars audience, and later to the world via TV and social media. “I have been selfish, I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with. I’m grateful that so many of you in this room have given me a second chance.”

These words reverberate through the audience, each person reflecting on their own thoughts and deeds, as Joaquin continues a speech that is sure to go down in history. I think of my own life; I see myself as a ‘good’ person with strong values, yet I have hurt people I care deeply about and those who never did me any wrong. I have, without any thought, gossiped and derided and judged. In my relatively short lifetime, my choices have placed my selfish desires over the greater good, and I have chosen to be blind to what I do not want to see. It hurts to admit these things to myself – to you. My ego doesn’t want to see that shameful part of myself.

And I know I am not alone. We all have erred, gone against our higher judgement in some way. Perhaps we are all relative scoundrels. Yet, we have also forgiven those who have made misjudgements, we have gifted second chances to ourselves and others and we offer the benefit of the doubt more often than we may realise.

Our ability to draw upon our compassion, to forgive, is what can make us shine. That’s what gives us hope. And that’s when we are at our very best. Joaquin continues, “When we support each other, not when we cancel each other out for our past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other towards redemption, that is the best of humanity.”

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen.

Instead of seeing our differences and our failings, instead of comparing each other, instead of placing one cause over another, what if we focused on our commonality? We are all longing for the same thing; a more loving, inclusive and peaceful world. A chance to upgrade to the very best version of ourselves. A chance to remember that we are all interconnected. That we are one.

If love and hate are opposite sides of the same coin, and indifference is the true enemy, then we are more ahead than we may realise. The fact that we care so deeply, even though we sometimes disagree, even though we sometimes act based on pure emotion, even though we are misguided at times, is truly beautiful. Together, our humanity is moulding a world more exquisite than the finest of all the Arts. We are living, breathing masterpieces. We are something to behold when the light shines upon us and we are a force of magnificent benevolence when the light shines out of us.

And as Joaquin suggests, the goal we are all working towards is within reach: “When we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment.”

The wise words of the man who played a joker most of his life, and then got to portray The Joker to the world, and win an Oscar for Best Actor, strangely echoes closely the contemplations of Lao Tzu:

“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Joaquin elegantly finishes his speech with a lyric his late brother wrote at just seventeen years old. As is often the case with the innocent-wisdom of youth, it is profoundly memorable, pure and true.

Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow. – River Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix’s moving speech.


What did you think of Joaquin’s speech? What part resonated most with you? Do you feel inspired to forgive others and/or yourself? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

With Love and Compassion,


BY Ashleigh Wilson



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Geo Erickson-Niau
4 years ago

…Humanity is at it’s best when guiding one another toward redemption… this is my new favorite quote! Thank you so much J.P.! I plan to share this speech with everyone I can with much gratitude for those sharing it with me on this site which I have just discovered . I am indeed UPLIFTED!

4 years ago

I use to feel that way. Got a masters and three certificates in humans development. Then my country elected a degenerate King and a dark night of the soul appeared. I grieved over the country I lost, the country I thought I had. Now I simply no longer care.

4 years ago

His speech moved me but what resonated the most was his deep compassion for animals, his willingness to be a spokesperson for those who cannot defend themselves, that when we hear a mother cow’s cries we ignore them and his concern that feel we are above other species and that we inhumanely take advantage of them. Your article totally omitted his decision to choose this grand stage to be a voice for them. I found that you truly disrespected him by not even mentioning it. Shame on you

Sandy Lee
4 years ago

Praise him for this moving, true speech. His eyes are wide open and hope all others will be opened also.

4 years ago

I think he looked like he had lost his mind and the audience was so quiet because they were in shock of what he looked like and was saying. The world isn’t going to stop drinking milk! I myself don’t drink milk because I am lactose intolerant, but that isn’t the case for the majority of the country. It is a supplement of the human diet and I have to take a prescription vitamin D to make up for the lack of it.

4 years ago

You hear something deeply moving and beautiful like that, your heart is touched, you’re moved, inspired , and then what? tomorrow most people will return to the old patterns of behaviour. Why? some will simply not know where to turn to for the help they need, others might feel that they’re unable to gather the courage needed for the work of transformation to take place within them and other people will for one reason or another decide it is better to remain where they are.
I believe that one day the clock will call time on us and when that moment arrives, human souls will experience change through a great deal of pain.

4 years ago

Riveting! “I hope all person’s it was intended for will put that in their pipes and smoke it” including myself

4 years ago

I found this on Reddit –
I have been on this journey with you since watching The Gladiator. I have watched you wear many hats and transform completely. We don’t know each other. I see what you show me. I had always had this thought in the back of my mind – this man’s soul runs deep.

Today, I see a man who has worked hard all his life, took on a job and did exceptional work. The entire world stopped to watch and reward it.
I see a man who used his talent and art to get the world to pay attention. He worked hard to make us, all of us listen and admire.

But when the time came, instead of accepting the applause and recognition, you used it to unite us all in what really matters – equality, acceptance, fight against injustice and saving our home.

I see honesty.
I see truth.
I imperfection.
I see regret.
I see a real human being.
I truly see the change happening.

Call me naive, but I believe people are followers.
People hate because their leader hates and love because their idols love.
People also get lost in this world of fantasy and films.
People get obsessed.

I truly believe the real influencers of this world were the ones in the Dolby Theatre last night. And seeing the change happening, starting with you, Joaquin, gives me hope.

As a person with a regular regular job and no platform, you feel powerless.
You don’t really have a voice.
You can’t make a real change.
You do your best.
You make better choices.
You seek opportunities.
Undeniably, it feels like you are fighting against the current.

With genuine hope and admiration,
An invisible spectator

Theresa Longman
4 years ago

Thank the Creator that there are still actors that use their profession to open up the eyes of their audience to something of meaning.
And to be able to articulate something so powerful, to a group of people that may use their abilities, professionally and financially to make change was brilliant.
It was reminiscent of when Marlon Brando had, I believe her name was Sachseen Littlefeather, read his letter about the plight of the native Americans. Being Indian myself, I watched those words work through our tribe. Hopefully Joaquin’s words will help wake up this nation, before its to late. Creator Bless you and yours, my friend.

Basudha Chakraborty
4 years ago

As Joaquin said,”The greatest gift given to us is that being the voice for the voiceless.Taking the example of the cows.How does she survive without her child… don’t we feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby.Enjoying the milk in our coffee and tea which was of calf and we enjoying the drink.How does it feel?

Steve Kuschner
4 years ago

Chills up and down my spine, we can be hero’s just for one day

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