McKellen walked through the crowd quoting from the speech written by Shakespeare in Sir Thomas More. In the text, Catholic martyr Thomas More is sent by the King to quell a riot in the streets of London, where there are shouts that the "strangers" should be removed. What follows is an emotional speech about the need for greater acceptance in the face of violence and ignorance.
"What had you got? I'll tell you: you had taught how insolence and strong hand should prevail/ How order should be quelled; and by this pattern...men like ravenous fishes/would feed on one another," McKellen sang out to an enthralled crowd.
Watch a video of the speech and read the entire Shakespeare text below.
Following the speech, the entire crowd stood on its feet.
Presented by Wells Fargo and held at the Marriott Marquis, the event also honored Maine's Ryan Fecteau, the youngest, openly gay state legislator who was named the Youth Innovator Honoree and Johnson & Johnson with the 20/20 Visionary Award.
Stage and screen legend McKellen was knighted in 1991 for his outstanding contribution to theatre and in 2008, the Queen personally appointed him Companion of Honour for his services to drama and to equality. He has been honored with over 50 international acting awards and is co-founder of Stonewall UK, which lobbies for legal and social equality for gay people.
Founded in 1998, the Trevor Project is a leading organization providing crisis intervention and suicide services to LGBTQ youth. For more information visit TheTrevorProject.
Ian McKellen's speech from Sir Thomas More
"Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs with their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silenced by your brawl, And you in rough of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I'll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.
O, desperate as you are,
Wash your foul minds with tears, and those same hands,
That you like rebels lift against the peace,
Lift up for peace, and your unreverent knees,
Make them your feet to kneel to be forgiven!
You'll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in liom,
To slip him like a hound. Say now the king
(As he is clement, if th' offender mourn)
Should so much come to short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,—
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your momtainish inhumanity."