Character Revealed in Chaos

Imagine for a moment that your lifelong dream had just come true; that you had just achieved precisely what you had dedicated your every waking hour to achieving.

Now imagine it snatched away from you two minutes later.  With hundreds of millions of people watching.

Would you cry?  Would you get angry?  Or would you swallow hard and do your best to salvage the moment for someone else who had just achieved their lifelong dream?

Jordan Horowitz lived a nightmare in front of the entire world.  But while his dream was crushed in the cruelest possible fashion, his spirit was revealed in the clearest possible way.

For two minutes, Horowitz thought he and his producing partners had won the Academy Award for Best Picture for their work on “La La Land.”  Yet as the world now knows, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway somehow grabbed the wrong envelope and read the wrong winner.   

“La La Land” hadn’t won at all: “Moonlight” did.  And in an incomprehensible delay, Horowitz and his partners were wrapping up their speeches before any Oscar officials alerted anyone to the mistake.

Horowitz had to be devastated.  He had to be humiliated.  But he also had the presence of mind and the strength of character to take control of the most chaotic, confusing moment in Oscar history, swallow his pride, choke back his emotions, and make things right.  


“Guys, I’m sorry,” he said the moment he learned of the mistake.  “There’s a mistake.  ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won Best Picture, come on up here.”

“This is not a joke,” he assured the stunned crowd, as an even more stunned Oscars host and staff looked on, not quite knowing how to proceed.  “‘Moonlight’ has won Best Picture.”

“‘Moonlight,’ Best Picture,” he repeated as he held up the contents of the correct envelope to the cameras.

The host, Jimmy Kimmel, then took to the microphone to call the mistake “unfortunate” and joke about blaming Steve Harvey (who made a similar mistake at the Miss Universe pageant). “I would like to see you win an Oscar anyway,” Kimmel told Horowitz.  “Why can’t we just give out a bunch of them?”

Horowitz’s answer was as frank as it was revealing.

“I’m going to be really proud to hand this [the Oscar] to my friends from ‘Moonlight,’” he said.

And that’s just what he did.  He handed his Oscar—the thing he had worked his entire life for—to Barry Jenkins, the writer and director of “Moonlight,” and then walked out of the spotlight so that Jenkins and “Moonlight’s” producers could have their moment in it.


Would you be able to do that?  Would you be able to in an instant recognize to gravity of someone else’s mistake and work to rectify it with hundreds of millions of people watching?  Would you be able to swallow hard and hand over your lifelong dream to its rightful owner?

We’d all like to think we would, that in that moment we would be able to take charge and take control—not just of the moment but also of our own egos, our own temptation to lash out in selfishness or self-righteous anger.  But would we?

Jordan Horowitz did, and in his moment his dream may not have come true, but his character shone through for the entire world to see.


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