“I don’t know why this is my life and that’s hers.”

by Angelina Jolie


My mother loved art, she loved film.

She supported any crazy thing I did, but whenever it had meaning she made a point of telling me, “That is what film is for.”

She never had a career as an artist. She never had the opportunity to express herself beyond her theater class. But she wanted, more than for herself, she wanted for [my brother] Jamie and I, to know what it is to have a life as artists.

She gave us that chance.

She drove me to every audition and she would wait in the car for hours, always making me feel really good all the times I didn’t get the job. And when I did, we would jump up and down, and scream and yell like little girls.

She wasn’t really the best critic, since she never had anything unkind to say. But she did give me love and confidence.

And above all, she was very clear that nothing would mean anything if I didn’t live a life of use to others.

I didn’t know what that meant for a long time.

I came into this business young and worried about my own experiences and my own pain. It was only when I began to travel, and look and live beyond my home that I understood my responsibility to others.

When I met survivors of war and famine and rape, I learned what life is like for most people in this world. How fortunate I was to have food to eat, a roof over my head, a safe place to live, and the joy of having my family safe and healthy.

I realized how sheltered I had been, and I was determined never to be that way again.

We are all, everyone in this room, so fortunate.

I have never understood why some people are lucky enough to be born with the chance that I had, to have this path in life.

And why across the world there’s a woman just like me, with the same abilities and the same desires, same work ethic and love for her family, who would most likely make better films, and better speeches — only she sits in a refugee camp.

She has no voice.

She worries about what her children will eat, how to keep them safe, and if they’ll ever be allowed to return home.

I don’t know why this is my life and that’s hers.

I don’t understand that, but I will do as my mother asked, and I will do the best I can with this life to be of use.

To stand here today means that I did as she asked, and if she were alive she’d be very proud, so thank you for that.


This is an excerpt from Angelina Jolie’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award acceptance speech at The Academy’s 2013 Governors Awards.

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