“Jordan Horowitz knew something was wrong the moment he saw people in headsets scurrying across the Oscars stage,” according to the New York Times,
Seconds before, Horowitz, glowing with the unimaginable emotions of winning an Academy Award for Best Picture, had just given a very nice acceptance speech. As a producer of “La La Land,” he finished his short list of “thank you’s” and stepped back to let fellow producer Mark Platt make his grateful speech.
Then the “La La Land” bubble burst.
A crisis can happen at any moment. Whether during sudden life-threatening situations, emergencies in business, families in crisis, or disasters on-stage, there are certain people who stand out by their exceptional abilities to save the day. These people are rare, as we saw at the 2017 Academy Awards, but we have a lot to learn from them.
During Platt’s speech, producers ran on stage quickly checking envelopes. Then they told Horowitz and another producer, Fred Berger, that a terrible mistake had been made; the announcement cards got mixed up. “La La Land” didn’t win. “Moonlight” did. Berger, who had yet to make his speech, looked at Horowitz and said, “We lost.” Platt, unaware of what was going on behind him, finished his speech and gestured to Berger that it was his turn at the mic. (To his credit, Berger thanked the crew for their hard work without accepting the award.)
As Berger finished, confusion reigned onstage as cast, stage managers and host Jimmy Kimmel tried to correct an impossible situation on live television. Warren Beatty, who had presented the award with Faye Dunaway, began approaching the microphone to somehow announce the correction. He never got his chance.
Horowitz, proving he’s the guy you want with you when shit goes down, took over the entire situation with what we can call Forceful Civility. He nearly leapt to the mic, pushing himself in front of Beatty saying, “There’s a mistake. ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture.” Now it was the audience’s turn to be confused. Realizing quickly that he had to clarify, Horowitz continued his courageous act by reaching out with the Oscar statue he was holding, saying, “This is not a joke. This is not a joke. ‘Moonlight’ has won best picture.” Snapping his head to Warren Beatty and Jimmy Kimmel, Horowitz saw both men slowly attempting to explain the situation with a halting attempt to show the actual best picture awards card. Horowitz knew this was no time for hesitation. He reached out and grabbed the card from Beatty. Holding it up for the camera and the world to see, Jordan Horowitz announced, “Moonlight. Best picture.”
His hand remained absolutely steady as the camera zoomed in as viewers, along with the “Moonlight” team, came to realize, finally, who had won the Oscar. Having just experienced an unprecedented disappointment in front of a billion people, Horowitz alone made the official announcement that another competing film, not his, was the winner.
So why does this make John Horowitz the man you want with you when things go bad? There’s a few reasons.
Ultra-fast awareness of a situation falling apart is the first.
Seconds after receiving the Academy Award, a dream of a lifetime, Horowitz realized something was amiss. “I’m holding the envelope and the award, and I had just given my speech, and there are people on the stage with headsets, and I thought, ‘That doesn’t seem right,’” he said in his interview with The New York Times.
So he moved quickly. The moment he knew something was wrong, Jordan Horowitz realized that he was the best person to jump in and make things right. Whether an innate characteristic or something you develop over time, moving fast when a situation goes terribly wrong is key to correcting it. This is especially true when you are the best person to do it. And Horowitz knew that he couldn’t stand by while others floundered. That’s because he was holding the statue that, by all rights, he shouldn’t have been holding. It was his sole responsibility to give the Oscar to its rightful owner. It didn’t matter that the flubbed announcement wasn’t his fault. The only thing that mattered to him at that moment was rectifying a dreadful wrong, even if that wrong had been inflicted on him.
And that’s the second reason. Amongst the chaos and defeat Horowitz put ego aside and recognized he was the best person to transcend the situation.
Indeed, no other person on that stage was better qualified to deliver the difficult message. A very wise woman once told me, “you’ll never regret being classy,” and she was right. As the unintended casualty of the blunder, his direct, polite announcement of the correction made it absolutely clear that “La La Land” did not win the award and “Moonlight did.” Bringing civility to disarray can and does extinguish many fires. Rather than standing there looking confused while others tried to make the best of a bad situation, Horowitz removed them from the equation.
Because, and this is the third reason, hesitators need to step aside or be removed in a time of crisis and Horowitz knows that. Going further, he addressed the “Moonlight” team directly, saying, “I’m gonna be really proud to hand this to my friends from ‘Moonlight.'” Which he did while hugging all that film’s producers. In their graciousness, they invited him to stay onstage and share the spotlight. He declined, moving off to the side in order to give “Moonlight” its moment.
Having won the award, then realizing he lost, then witnessing the difficulty faced by the entire group of people on stage, Horowitz swiftly came forward, took charge and made things right for the people who had been wronged. There was no ego involved. Having been lifted up and promptly crushed, he saw what had to be done and did it without hesitation.
This requires a man’s mind and character to work in concert at incredible speed. Whether or not Jordan Horowitz has that innate ability or he learned it from others doesn’t matter. He has what it takes to assess the crisis the moment it appears, put himself aside and rectify the errors of others all in a matter of seconds.
Could he have done better? Of course. We all can, especially when we’re not under enormous pressure. In fact, that’s usually what people like Jordan say after intervening in a crisis. The Jordan Horowitz’s of the world typically focus on how they could have done more or done it differently, given the chance. So yes, he could have apologized, though not his fault, for the fact that “Moonlight’s” full moment of glory was taken from them, perhaps even suggesting to the Academy that they find some way to remedy the situation in the days to come. (And let’s hope they do.)
While by no means perfect, the reason you want Horowitz with you when things get really, really bad is that he makes very good decisions very quickly and then acts on them. This is the mark of a person with class and dignity, and the true mark of a champion. They don’t hesitate. Whether someone is in the military or a first responder, teacher, parent, entrepreneur, or an anonymous passer-by, those few people in the general population who run in to help when everyone else is confused or running away are the great defenders of our safety, liberty, trust and decency.
So if you can’t be like Jordan Horowitz, or learn to be like him, you better hope he’s around when shit goes down.