Danny Woodburn received the DREAM Award at the Disability Rights Legal Center's Annual Gala on November 19, 2009. DREAM stands for Disability Rights in Entertainment, Arts & Media and recognizes achievement in promoting access and inclusion for people with disabilities.
Acceptance Speech by Danny Woodburn
I want to first say thank you; this really is an honor. This award represents to me what I have always wanted to do in my work, change perceptions, dispel old beliefs. I’ve always felt a responsibility to this end but really, for selfish purposes. I want to work as an actor and be respected for my talent. I want to continue to crossover into atypical roles, to become the best actor I can be and not just the best “little person” actor.
To this end, I continue to present myself on screen in a way that, I hope, makes a change in how people like me are treated and viewed by society. I’m motivated by my life experiences and the fact that I don’t want kids like me to have deal with quite the same things I had to. I’m motivated by the fact that Little People children who watch my work can see themselves represented diversely and realistically as business people, scientists, accountants, lawmen, state officials, Husbands and Dads and even the occasional con man. I’m motivated by the idea that when we are entertained by the truth, we start to believe in the truth.
I’m motivated by the fact that my whole life I have been seen as different and primarily in a negative way; from the overt hatred of being denied housing, employment, verbally and physically assaulted by strangers, denied restaurant service, to the more subtle abuse of misunderstanding my intelligence, dismissing my maturity, or judging my ability.
It makes it all the more satisfying to me to know that this award comes from the people in this room, who do this unselfishly, not for reward nor for personal gain, but for the righteousness of it.
You see the many people with disabilities who are standing outside looking in at a world of exclusion; exclusion from access, exclusion from employment, from decent housing, from proper medical care. You bring recognition to these exclusions, and you doggedly pursue what is right. You stand outside with them—us, and you kick that door in.
This award is a shining endorsement to me to persevere in this ongoing mission, because unfortunately the labeling and twisted perceptions still pervade our media. When I read scripts, newspapers, watch television shows or films filled with hate words or someone’s sick and ignorant ideas of little people, the struggle for what is fair and what is right begins again.
President, Barack Obama said, "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." All of you are living examples of this. Your giving me this award tonight honors me with the knowledge of your presence on the front lines, and I thank you.
I want to thank, my brilliant doctor and friend, the late Steven Kopits for keeping me in working condition my entire childhood and showing me what it means to have a passion, my mom for raising a son who could believe in himself and my wife for raising a man to make the world believe in him.