Troy Kotsur made Oscar history Sunday night when he became the first deaf man to win an Academy Award for acting. He accepted the award by sharing an emotional message about perseverance.
The "CODA" star, who won the award for best actor in a supporting role, took to the stage after presenter Youn Yuh-jung both spoke his name and signed his name as the winner in his category.
"This is dedicated to the deaf community, the 'CODA' community and the disabled community," Kotsur said in American Sign Language during his acceptance speech. “This is our moment.”
In the movie, Kotsur plays Frank Rossi, a fisherman in New England who struggles to relate to his hearing daughter, Ruby, who dreams of being a singer.
Kotsur, who also won a Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance, shared a story about his own father, who lost the ability to communicate with him after a tragic accident.
“My dad, he was the best signer in our family, but he was in a car accident and he became paralyzed from the neck down, and he no longer was able to sign,” he said.
“Dad, I learned so much from you. I’ll always love you. You are my hero," he added.
Until his win on Sunday, Kotsur's “CODA” co-star, Marlee Matlin, was the only deaf person to win an Oscar for acting. Matlin won in 1987 for her role opposite the late William Hurt in the drama “Children of a Lesser God.”
Kotsur mentioned Matlin during his speech, telling a funny story about how, because of the popularity of "CODA," they were invited to the White House where they met President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden.
"We met our president, Joe, and Dr. Jill, and I was planning on teaching them some dirty sign language, but Marlee Matlin told me to behave myself. So don’t worry, Marlee; I won’t drop any F-bombs in my speech today," he joked.
He also thanked "CODA" director Sian Heder for being a "bridge" between the deaf world and the hearing world.
"I read one of (Steven) Spielberg’s books recently, and he said that the best director, the definition of the best director was a skilled communicator. Sian Heder, you are the best communicator. And the reason why is you brought the deaf world and the hearing world together, and you are our bridge," he said.
Kotsur concluded his speech by thanking his wife and daughter, whom he called "my biggest fans," as well as other members of his family.
"To my mom, my dad and my brother Mark — they’re not here today. But look at me now. I did it. I love you. Thank you."