The talented, charismatic and handsome Neil Patrick Harris brilliantly ushered this year's Oscars through the potential landmines of political commentary and irreverent humor. Indeed, from hosting many of the entertainment world's most prestigious award shows, to posing on the recent cover of Architectural Digest with his husband David Burtka, it's nearly impossible not to see Harris front and center somewhere.
All of which makes it hard to remember this former child star was a closeted actor afraid of being found out, not too long ago. In so many ways, Harris' career—as well as the resurrected career of last year's Oscar host, Ellen DeGeneres-- are reminders of how we're learning to treat each other better. Of how we're learning to allow space for those who are different from us.
With a Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage looming, Harris not only served as an Oscar host, but an unspoken reminder of the work that still must be done in the name of equality.
Common, John Legend evoke Civil Rights era at Oscars
Common, John Legend evoke Civil Rights era at Oscars 01:00
Oscar night was full of such reminders. Such as in John Legend's sobering acceptance speech, which touched on the recent, systematic attack on American voter's rights and the disproportionate incarceration rate for black men.
"Nina Simone said it's an artist's duty to reflect the times we're in," he said as he clutched the Oscar he shared with Common for best original song, "Glory", from the film "Selma".
" 'Selma' is now because the struggle for justice is right now...There are more black men under correctional control today than there were in slavery in 1850."
And during her best supporting actress ("Boyhood") acceptance speech, Patricia Arquette brought Meryl Streep and others to their feet as she took time to criticize the gender pay gap.
"To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else's equal rights... it is our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!" she said.
And then there was best-adapted screenplay winner Graham Moore ("The Imitation Game"), and his words of encouragement for those who feel they are on the outside looking in.
"I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she's weird or she's different or she doesn't fit in anywhere—yes you do," he said. "I promise you do, you do. Stay weird. Stay different. And when it's your turn and you are standing on the stage please pass the same message to the next person who comes along."
Politically inflected acceptance speeches are hardly new at the Oscars. But these felt different: They were not some self-important actor's hijacking the program for a personal agenda, but rather an acknowledgement of the very real conversations we are all having right now.
Even a handful of immigration references found their way on stage as "Birdman" director/screenwriter Alejandro González Iñárritu acknowledged he followed up fellow Latino director Alfonso Cuarón as best director.
Later, while accepting the Oscar for Best Picture, Iñárritu was more direct: "The ones that live in this country, who are part of the latest generation of immigrants, I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.
Fans of "Selma" may still be upset about the awards snubs that preceded Oscar night for the film, which traced Martin Luther King's campaign for equal voting rights for black people (the movie's sole statue was for the song), but the ceremony in many ways took up the themes beautifully portrayed in the film—both spoken and unspoken.