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What makes a good leader? Actress Diane Keaton explored this question as she accepted THR’s Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at the 21st annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast on Wednesday.
“My idea of a leader would be somebody like Sherry Lansing. You know why? Because she has this gift, like so many of you here today do, of organizing large groups of people in order to achieve a common goal,” Keaton said. “And Sherry’s particular brand of leaders , you know, that kind of leader has to be charismatic and intelligent and attractive, but most of all persuasive – and that’s not me.”
The breakfast coincided with the release of The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Power 100 ranking, which saw Disney Media Networks co-chairman and president of Disney/ABC Television Group Anne Sweeney secure the top spot for the third straight year. Among the other honorees on-hand for the celebration were Nancy Dubuc, THR cover girl and No. 7 on the list; A+E chief Abbe Raven; NBCUniversal Cable chair; Bonnie Hammer; and Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chair Amy Pascal, along with plenty of others. Kathy Griffin attended the event once again, while Mindy Kaling, Elizabeth Banks, Sandra Fluke and Kerry Washington gave remarks.
One heartfelt moment came early on in the program, when Raven urged audience members to “never forget our moms” and to “call your moms tonight.”
And in Keaton’s speech, she paid tribute to her late mother Dot with a touching address.
Dorothy Hall – or Dot, as Keaton’s father called her – died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2008 at the age of 86. In her tribute, Keaton spoke directly to her mother, whom she described as “my first and most inspired leader.”
“You know, mom, sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had told you how much I love the sound of your laughter. Would that have made you feel proud of yourself? Or what if I just told you how proud I was to be the daughter of a really special former Mrs. Los Angeles? Would that have made a difference? Or if I’d, oh god, told you how quickly I ran home to you the day Dave Garland stuck his finger in my padded bra and made me feel humiliated? Would you have finally understood that you were irreplaceable, mom?,” mused Keaton. “Or what if I just told you how much fun it was for me just to sit across from the kitchen counter and watch you make your midafternoon snack of Wheat Thins with longhorns and dill pickles on the side, would you have felt fulfilled?”
Keaton went on to say that she’ll regret not saying those words to her mother “when she could have really understood” for the rest of her life, and that sometimes she wonders if Dot can hear her words “now that she’s just dust blowing in the Arizona sky.”
The purpose of Keaton’s comments was not only to honor her own mother, but to highlight the importance of storytelling.
“I know that our stories do strengthen our bond,” she said. “And I know that stories give us the value, and the value of listening is to help us recognize that every life matters.”
Though industry veteran Lansing was not on hand to present her eponymous award (she had prior commitments in Singapore), Keaton’s former co-star Sarah Paulson gave her introduction. Before and after Keaton’s speech, the actress received a standing ovation from the audience.
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