Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Roger Williams Independent Voice Award

Remarks on Tuesday, August 6, 2013, at the opening night of the 2013 Rhode Island International Film Festival:

Thank you Don Farish, thank you George Marshall, and thanks to the Film Festival Board. Thanks to my family -- Yolanda and my children Rachel, Katy and Cal -- for your many years of tolerating the obsessive behaviors that come with being a writer. And hello out there to my Bella and Livvie!

I am humbled and honored to receive this year’s Roger Williams Independent Voice award. Humbled because I join the ranks of Barbara Meek, Paul Sorvino and other distinguished winners. Honored because the values the award recognizes -- compassion, tolerance and understanding -- are values I have tried to bring to my writing and my films.

Over the years, I have told the stories of inmates, the mentally ill and challenged, victims of rape and tragedy, abused children and women, people sick and dying, traumatized war veterans, and more. I have tried to give a public voice to people who often have none. I have tried to make a difference.

Let me tell you about one of these people, Frank Beazley.

Frank was abandoned as a newborn and he suffered cruel treatment in an orphanage and a foster home. Somehow, he made it. He came to America in 1953. Life was good. And then, in 1967, after working the overnight shift at a Dunkin’ Donuts, he fell down a flight of stairs. The accident left him a quadriplegic, barely able to feed himself, and confined to a wheelchair. He spent the rest of his life, almost half a century, at Zambarano Hospital.

And yet, despite these extraordinary challenges, Frank became a celebrated artist, poet and champion of the disabled. He was a gentle man of good humor and cheer. He was kind, generous and uncomplaining. And in everything, he was unfailingly compassionate, tolerant and understanding.
Over the years, I wrote dozens of Providence Journal stories about Frank. When he died last summer, I cried. And then I wrote his obituary, and made sure it ran on the front page with a wonderful photo of him smiling.

Frank and I became dear friends. I loved his beard, his sparkling blue eyes, his jokes, his passion for the New England Patriots, his inspirational attitude, which he summarized in his favorite saying: “It’s a beautiful day.”

If Frank were here tonight, he would surely agree that for me, this is a beautiful day. And it really is. Thank you all.

Roger Williams University president Donald Farish presents the award. Photo Kris Craig/The Providence Journal

The 2013 Roger Williams Independent Voice award.

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