Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Steven Spielberg on making correct moral choices in the defining moments of our lives

Note: This post is reproduced (with a different title) on 1st June 2016 from my blog post here: 
http://ravisiyermisc.blogspot.in/2016/05/steven-spielberg-harvard-commencement.html.

Steven Spielberg: " ... this is why it’s so important to listen to your internal whisper. It’s the same one that compelled Abraham Lincoln and Oskar Schindler to make the correct moral choices. In your defining moments, do not let your morals be swayed by convenience or expediency. Sticking to your character requires a lot of courage. And to be courageous, you’re going to need a lot of support."

For more of his Harvard Commencement 2016 speech, read below:

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg Speech | Harvard Commencement 2016,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYtoDunfu00, dated May 26th 2016, 20 min 09 secs.

Transcript of above speech is available at https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/276561.

I have given below, selected excerpts from the above speech transcript (slightly edited to fix typo kind of error(s)):

Now in a two-hour movie, you get a handful of character-defining moments, but in real life, you face them every day. Life is one strong, long string of character-defining moments. And I was lucky that at 18 I knew what I exactly wanted to do. But I didn’t know who I was. How could I? And how could any of us? Because for the first 25 years of our lives, we are trained to listen to voices that are not our own. Parents and professors fill our heads with wisdom and information, and then employers and mentors take their place and explain how this world really works.

And usually these voices of authority make sense, but sometimes, doubt starts to creep into our heads and into our hearts. And even when we think, ‘that’s not quite how I see the world,’ it’s kind of easier to just to nod in agreement and go along, and for a while, I let that going along define my character. Because I was repressing my own point of view, because like in that Nilsson song, ‘Everybody was talkin’ at me, so I couldn’t hear the echoes of my mind.’

And at first, the internal voice I needed to listen to was hardly audible, and it was hardly noticeable -- kind of like me in high school. But then I started paying more attention, and my intuition kicked in.

And I want to be clear that your intuition is different from your conscience. They work in tandem, but here’s the distinction: Your conscience shouts, ‘here’s what you should do,’ while your intuition whispers, ‘here’s what you could do.’ Listen to that voice that tells you what you could do. Nothing will define your character more than that.

Because once I turned to my intuition, and I tuned into it, certain projects began to pull me into them, and others, I turned away from.

...

But then I directed The Color Purple. And this one film opened my eyes to experiences that I never could have imagined, and yet were all too real. This story was filled with deep pain and deeper truths, like when Shug Avery says, ‘Everything wants to be loved.’ My gut, which was my intuition, told me that more people needed to meet these characters and experience these truths. And while making that film, I realized that a movie could also be a mission.

I hope all of you find that sense of mission. Don’t turn away from what’s painful. Examine it. Challenge it.

...

And again, this is why it’s so important to listen to your internal whisper. It’s the same one that compelled Abraham Lincoln and Oskar Schindler to make the correct moral choices. In your defining moments, do not let your morals be swayed by convenience or expediency. Sticking to your character requires a lot of courage. And to be courageous, you’re going to need a lot of support.

And if you’re lucky, you have parents like mine. I consider my mom my lucky charm. And when I was 12 years old, my father handed me a movie camera, the tool that allowed me to make sense of this world. And I am so grateful to him for that. And I am grateful that he’s here at Harvard, sitting right down there.

My dad is 99 years old, which means he’s only one year younger than Widener Library. But unlike Widener, he’s had zero cosmetic work.

...

Love, support, courage, intuition. All of these things are in your hero’s quiver, but still, a hero needs one more thing: A hero needs a villain to vanquish. And you’re all in luck. This world is full of monsters. And there’s racism, homophobia, ethnic hatred, class hatred, there’s political hatred, and there’s religious hatred.

As a kid, I was bullied -- for being Jewish. This was upsetting, but compared to what my parents and grandparents had faced, it felt tame. Because we truly believed that anti-Semitism was fading. And we were wrong. Over the last two years, nearly 20,000 Jews have left Europe to find higher ground. And earlier this year, I was at the Israeli embassy when President Obama stated the sad truth. He said: ‘We must confront the reality that around the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise. We cannot deny it.’

My own desire to confront that reality compelled me to start, in 1994, the Shoah Foundation. And since then, we’ve spoken to over 53,000 Holocaust survivors and witnesses in 63 countries and taken all their video testimonies. And we’re now gathering testimonies from genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia and Nanking. Because we must never forget that the inconceivable doesn’t happen -- it happens frequently. Atrocities are happening right now. And so we wonder not just, ‘When will this hatred end?’ but, ‘How did it begin?’

Now, I don’t have to tell a crowd of Red Sox fans that we are wired for tribalism. But beyond rooting for the home team, tribalism has a much darker side. Instinctively and maybe even genetically, we divide the world into ‘us’ and ‘them.’ So the burning question must be: How do all of us together find the ‘we?’ How do we do that? There’s still so much work to be done, and sometimes I feel the work hasn’t even begun. And it’s not just anti-Semitism that’s surging -- Islamophobia’s on the rise, too. Because there’s no difference between anyone who is discriminated against, whether it’s the Muslims, or the Jews, or minorities on the border states, or the LGBT community -- it is all big one hate.

And to me, and, I think, to all of you, the only answer to more hate is more humanity. We gotta repair -- we have to replace fear with curiosity. ‘Us’ and ‘them’ -- we’ll find the ‘we’ by connecting with each other. And by believing that we’re members of the same tribe. And by feeling empathy for every soul ..

...

But make sure this empathy isn’t just something that you feel. Make it something you act upon. That means vote. Peaceably protest. Speak up for those who can’t and speak up for those who may be shouting but aren’t being heard. Let your conscience shout as loud as it wants if you’re using it in the service of others.

...

And please stay connected. Please never lose eye contact. This may not be a lesson you want to hear from a person who creates media, but we are spending more time looking down at our devices than we are looking in each other’s eyes. So, forgive me, but let’s start right now. Everyone here, please find someone’s eyes to look into. Students, and alumni and you too, President Faust, all of you, turn to someone you don’t know or don’t know very well. They may be standing behind you, or a couple of rows ahead. Just let your eyes meet. That’s it. That emotion you’re feeling is our shared humanity mixed in with a little social discomfort.

But, if you remember nothing else from today, I hope you remember this moment of human connection.
--- end extracts from transcript of Steven Spielberg speech ---

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Spielberg, "Steven Allan Spielberg KBE OMRI (born December 18, 1946) is an American director, producer and screenwriter. Spielberg is considered one of the founding pioneers of the New Hollywood era, as well as being viewed as one of the most popular directors and producers in film history. He is one of the co-founders of DreamWorks Studios.

In a career spanning more than four decades, Spielberg's films have covered many themes and genres. Spielberg's early science-fiction and adventure films were seen as archetypes of modern Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking. In later years, his films began addressing humanistic issues such as the Holocaust (in Schindler's List), the transatlantic slave trade (in Amistad), war (in Empire of the Sun, Saving Private Ryan, War Horse and Bridge of Spies) and terrorism (in Munich). His other films include Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Indiana Jones film series, and A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

Spielberg won the Academy Award for Best Director for Schindler's List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998). Three of Spielberg's films—Jaws (1975), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Jurassic Park (1993)—achieved box office records, originated and came to epitomize the blockbuster film."

[I thank Harvard University, Steven Spielberg and entrepreneur.com, and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from the above mentioned speech transcript on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever. I also thank Wikipedia for an extract from its site shared on this post.]

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