Oscar Impact: Moreno, Rita

Veteran performer Rita Moreno has provided inspiration for many women as one of the few artists to have won all the prestigious showbiz awards: A Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Anita in the musical “West Side Story”; a Tony for her performance in the Broadway hit “The Ritz”; a Grammy for her contribution to “The Electric Company Album,” and two Emmys, one for a stint on “The Muppet Show,” the other for a dramatic performance on “The Rockford Files” in 1978.

On May 12, 2002, Moreno added another feather to her already busy cap when the State University of New York at Buffalo bestowed on her Honorary Doctorate of Letters. In her acceptance speech at the school's graduation ceremony, Moreno specifically addressed minority students, urging them to stand tall and proudly persevere through the expected hurdles stemming from oppression they may encounter in their post-college endeavors.

Moreno made sure to emphasize that she was not only addressing Latinos and African Americans, but the disabled and gay students, too. Her impassioned speech was met with a standing ovation and huge applause.