Thank you so much. I am honored to accept this award, especially here, at the Sheinbaum home, because I have known Stanley for 20 years and he has been such an inspiration to me. And, fittingly, 3 years ago, I heard Scott Ritter give a talk, right here, about how there were no WMDs in Iraq. Because of what he said here, I went to an anti-war vigil the very next week, and I’ve been going to it every Thursday night since then.
Thank you, Stanley and Betty, for always offering a place for the likeminded to gather, and for hosting this event today.
Being recognized by the ACLU of Southern California is such an honor for me. The ACLU protects my right to speak out, which these days can’t be taken for granted. Not too long ago, on my 3rd day in jail for civil disobedience, the warden called me out of my cell into her office and looked at me warily, "I don’t know who you are or what you’ve done, but we’ve gotten a call from the ACLU telling us to make sure you’re treated fairly while you’re in here". I can assure you that lofty peace ideals and TVQ don’t count for much in the prison system, but a call from the ACLU… now that carries weight.
If you think I’m brave because I’ve gone to jail a bunch of times for my beliefs, let me tell you a secret. I do that type of activism because the HollywoodCharityFundraiser type of activism terrifies me more than 5 days in lockup. Getting dressed up and trying to look as pretty as possible for the red carpet is just very stressful. In jail, you don’t have to think about what to wear – they provide the outfit for you. The last time I was incarcerated, the closest thing to a mirror was the reflection of the paper towel dispenser. Staph Infections were so rampant in the jail showers, I was advised to not even shave my legs.
Some people are surprised to see me in the street instead of on the red carpet. Last winter, when I was huddled on the bench in Westwood registering voters, a guy passes by and does this double take. "Arent you the woman who used to be on Baywatch?"
"Yes, I am."
"Oohhh!…. Is this what you’re doing now?"
I’m still an actress, but I AM more comfortable holding a sign than signing an autograph. Acting makes me happy, but Activism… fills my soul.
When I was 6 years old, I was always impressed that after my mom gave blood, she got as many cookies as she wanted. She said it was to keep her energy up after she donated, but all I heard was “Free Cookies”. That’s why I’ve always associated Activism with getting something back, even though I know you aren’t supposed to be in it for that. But I really do get something back: my “cookies” – the thing that keeps me going – is the inspiration I get from all of you. The electric car advocates; everyone at the peace vigil; Chuck Levin with whom I register voters; Sharon Gelman of Artists for a New South Africa; my Earth Talk Today co-host Peter Kreitler; Chris Taaffe, who makes me an informed activist; my wonderful, patient manager Daniel Sladek – and my family, especially my brother Jonathan. Without you who care as deeply as I, and who work just as hard on these issues, I would still be in bed with a pillow over my head. So thank you. It is completely because of you that I am up here.
I have to ACT. And I am not talking about making movies. I’m talking about acting in the face of injustice. In this time when the government wants to suppress our dissent, it is because of the ACLU that I am able to continue ACTING. Thank you so much for that, and for this award.