On March 4, 2019, multi-award-winning actress, singer, dancer, and civil rights activist Rita Moreno deliverd the Americans for the Arts 32nd Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy, sharing her views on the importance of diversity to our nation’s culture and democracy, and the value of the arts in our society today. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor offered special introductions to Ms. Moreno's lecture. The evening also featured a performance by actor and singer Brian Stokes Mitchell with accompanist Tedd Firth. Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert L. Lynch delivered opening remarks, and Americans for the Arts Board Chair Julie C. Muraco delivered closing remarks.
Watch the 2019 Nancy Hanks Lecture
Click to view the 2019 Transcript
Rita Moreno’s journey from a child with simple beginnings in Puerto Rico to show business icon
spans more than seven decades. At age 86, she remains one of the entertainment industry’s busiest stars. Her work includes 40 films; several highly-rated television shows; landmark public television programs; critically acclaimed Broadway, London’s West End, and regional theater shows including her one woman show Life Without Makeup at the Berkeley Rep.
Ms. Moreno has won all four of the most prestigious awards in show business: the Oscar, the Tony, two Emmys, and a Grammy. She added New York Times best-selling author to her list of accomplishments with her first book, Rita Moreno: A Memoir. Her friend, Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, asked her to record her memoir, My Beloved World.
Ms. Moreno currently stars in the widely popular Latino remake of Norman Lear’s classic sitcom, One Day at a Time on Netflix, now in its third season. Just recently, she signed on to be an Executive Producer in the Steven Spielberg remake of West Side Story, a film that she also will co-star in. When she is not shooting a TV show or film, she can be found on the road performing concerts and doing lectures. She completed a 30+ city concert and lecture tour around the country, appearing as a guest artist with symphony orchestras as well as in more intimate cabaret settings. She served as Grand Marshal of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York and released her first all-Spanish language album, Una Vez Mas, produced by her good friend, Emilio Estefan.
Ms. Moreno’s rise to stardom captured the experience of the many immigrants who sought better lives and opportunities in America. She was born Rosita Dolores Alverio in a small town near the Puerto Rican rain forest. At age five, she and her mother, a seamstress, moved to New York City to live with relatives in the Bronx.
Ms. Moreno earned the Oscar in 1962 for heating up the screen in her portrayal of the Latina spitfire, Anita, in West Side Story, a role which drew on memories of the racial taunts she endured as a young Puerto Rican immigrant living in the Bronx barrio. The Tony win was for her 1975 comedic triumph as Googie Gomez in Broadway’s The Ritz. The Grammy was for her 1972 performance on The Electric Company Album, based on her long-running children’s television series. The Emmys were for appearances on The Muppet Show and The Rockford Files.
After winning the Oscar, Ms. Moreno was acknowledged as a major movie star and she used her celebrity to give voice to valuable causes. She was among the Hollywood luminaries recruited by Harry Belafonte to take part in the historic 1963 March on Washington. She was seated 12 feet away from Dr. Martin Luther King when he gave his famed “I Have a Dream” speech.
Ms. Moreno has since been involved with many civic, cultural and charitable events supporting racial equality, hunger, early childhood education and higher education for minority students as well as health issues, i.e., HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
She has served on The National Endowment for the Arts committee and as a commissioner for The President’s White House Fellowships. Ms. Moreno was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush and the National Medal of the Arts by President Barack Obama. Her many other honors include the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, the Kennedy Center Honor for her lifetime contributions to American culture and the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice, was born in Bronx, New York, on June 25, 1954. She earned a B.A. in 1976 from Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude and receiving the university's highest academic honor. In 1979, she earned a J.D. from Yale Law School where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. She thereafter served as Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney's Office from 1979–1984.
She then litigated international commercial matters in New York City at Pavia & Harcourt, where she was an associate and then partner from 1984–1992. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and she served in that role from 1992–1998. She then served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1998–2009. President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed this role August 8, 2009.
Brian Stokes Mitchell
Brian Stokes Mitchell has been dubbed "The Last Leading Man" by The New York Times. Stokes has enjoyed a rich and varied career on Broadway, television and film, along with appearances in the great American concert halls.
His musical versatility has kept him in demand by some of the country's finest conductors and orchestras. He has performed: selections from "Porgy and Bess" with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony at Carnegie Hall, works by Aaron Copland and various contemporary composers at the Hollywood Bowl with the L.A. Philharmonic under the batons of Leonard Slatkin and John Mauceri; Broadway tunes at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC under the baton of Marvin Hamlisch; and jazz standards with Maestro John Williams at Disney Hall and with the Boston Pops. In 2005 he debuted Pulitzer prize winning composer David Del Tredici's "Rip Van Winkle" with the National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. He has been invited to the White House and has performed for Presidents Clinton and Obama.
He reprised his Tanglewood performance in John Williams' Jazz version of "My Fair Lady" at Disney Hall singing opposite Dianne Reeves. In 2005 he made his cabaret debut as both singer and musical arranger in New York at Feinstein's at the Regency in his critically acclaimed one-man show "Love/Life" which then moved to the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center. He received both the New York Bistro and Nightlife awards for his cabaret debut. He returned there in November of 2008 with a critically acclaimed concert where he was accompanied by a guitarist, a bassist and a percussionist.
He headlined the Carnegie Hall concert presentation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific" with Reba McEntire, which aired on PBS in the Spring of 2006. It was also released on DVD and CD . He reprised his role along with Reba McEntire in July of 2007 at the Hollywood bowl then returned to The Hollywood bowl in August of 2008 starring as Javert in “Les Miserables.”
His Broadway career includes performances in "Man of La Mancha" (Tony nomination and Helen Hayes Award); "Kiss Me Kate" (Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards); "Ragtime" (Tony nomination); August Wilson's "King Hedley II" (Tony nomination); "Kiss of the Spider Woman;" "Jelly's Last Jam;" David Merrick's "Oh, Kay!" and "Mail," which earned him a Theatre World award for outstanding Broadway Debut.
In 2010, Stokes returned to Broadway after a 7-year absence to do concerts, film and TV. The show was Lincoln Center Theatre's production of "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" and also starred Patti LuPone. Based on the Pedro Almodovar film of the same name, Stokes played the philandering Ivan. The cast album was released May 10, 2011.
At Encores he has starred in "Do, Re, Mi" and "Carnival" and in 2006 starred in "Kismet." In 1998 he joined the likes of Helen Hayes, Sir John Gielgud, Alec Guinness and James Earl Jones when he became the sole recipient of that year's Distinguished Performance Award from the Drama League, the nation's oldest theatrical honor, for his performance in "Ragtime."
His long television career began with a seven year stint on "Trapper John, MD." Numerous film and TV appearances more recently include his role on "Glee" as one of Rachel Berry's (Lea Michele) two dads alongside Jeff Goldblum, "One Last Thing" which debuted at Toronto's 2005 Film Festival, recurring roles on "Crossing Jordan" and "Frasier," PBS' "Great Performances," DreamWorks' "The Prince of Egypt ," and his "Presidential Debut" in "The Singer and the Song" from the White House.
In May of 2011, he appeared in the film "Jumping The Broom" playing opposite Angela Bassett for the 2nd time (The first being "Ruby's Bucket of Blood" for Showtime). The film was a family wedding dramedy and featured Loretta Devine, Paula Patton and Laz Alonso. Stokes played Mr. Watson, the well- to do father of the bride.
In 2006 he released his self-titled album as the inaugural artist on the newly -formed Playbill Records label. In addition to singing, Stokes produced the album and also wrote many of the arrangements and orchestrations. The executive producers are Playbill Record's president, Philip Birsh and Richard-Jay Alexander. It was mixed by 15-time Grammy winner Al Schmitt and the liner notes were penned by John Williams. For more information, visit www.Playbillrecords.com
He continues to perform at concerts all over the United States. In December of 2008 he performed as the musical guest artist at "Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square". The concert was aired on PBS during Christmas of 2009.
Stokes has enjoyed working with numerous charitable organizations from the March of Dimes to the USO. He is on the board of Americans For the Arts and is serving his 14th term as Chairman of the Board of the Actors Fund.