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An Oscar for Personal Courage

Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.


I won’t be joining the social justice warriors in boycotting the 2016 Oscars, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be watching the show, either. Every year when Hollywood’s Academy Awards are presented, I seem to find something else to do that night. The program is always too long and often celebrates movies I didn’t like, while ignoring some of the ones I did. Wherever I am and whatever I’m doing while the show is on, however, my thoughts turn to a friend who won an Oscar more than 30 years ago.

On the night of the 57th Oscars in 1985, Amadeus claimed best picture; F. Murray Abraham won best actor; Sally Field, best actress. Then came the announcement for best supporting actor. To the stage, bearing the widest grin of his life, bounced a man few Americans had heard of, a man who had only ever acted in one motion picture. A physician in his native Cambodia, Dr. Haing S. Ngor witnessed unspeakable cruelty and endured torture before escaping and finding his way to America barely five years earlier. His Oscar-winning performance in The Killing Fields gave him the platform to tell the world about the mass murder that occurred between 1975 and 1979 in Cambodia at the hands of the Khmer Rouge communists.

Ngor’s Oscar-winning performance told the world about the mass murder by Cambodia communists. 

When I met Ngor at a conference in Dallas a few months after he won, I was struck by the intensity of his passion. Perhaps no one loves liberty more than one who has been denied it at gunpoint. We became instant friends and stayed in frequent contact.

When he decided t…

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