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Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Toasts His Fans, the ‘Ones in the Seats,’ at the TIME 100 Gala

6 minute read

As one of six honorees selected to grace the covers of this year’s TIME 100 issue, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson showed up in style for the 2019 TIME 100 gala in New York City.

Following the dinner portion of Tuesday night’s celebration, Johnson gave a toast celebrating the “ones in the seats,” a.k.a. the fans who make his success possible.

“I want to toast to the ones in the seats. And those are the ones who I felt like I’ve lived their life for many, many years, I’ve been in their shoes,” he said. “And now I get to be the guy, so blessed and so lucky…that people all around the world will now go sit in the seats and watch me.”

Johnson has had an extraordinary career, evolving from WWE champion to A-list action star in less than a decade. And he’s showing no signs of slowing down. In 2019, you can catch the Rock in the Fast and the Furious spinoff Hobbs and Shaw as well as the highly anticipated Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle sequel.

This is his second appearance on the TIME 100 list; he first made the cut in 2016.

Read the full transcript of the Johnson’s toast below.

All right. So I was thinking, okay, well, you know, what am I going to — who am I going to toast to on this night? I mean, there’s such distinguished guests, so successful, so impactful. What a room. What a pleasure it is to be here, and congratulations again to everybody tonight. My first time attending this event and what a night.

So I was thinking, okay, well, who am I going to toast to? And, of course, I ran down the list. My first was to my much better half at home, my daughters, my family. I have three daughters, all women in my family. Yes, yes, yeah. It’s called “payback.” Yeah, and God said, “You will pay.” I have a 17-year-old daughter, a 3-year-old, and a 1-year-old, we just celebrated her birthday, I thought, well, they’re certainly influential in my life. And, you know, the thought here was who can I toast who is going to be that influential, that inspirational, that inspiring.

And then I went down the list, maybe my business partners and colleagues. I thought, I know who I got to toast. I want to toast — and I figured this out as I was flying here yesterday — I said, I want to toast to the ones in the seats. And those are the ones who I felt like I’ve lived their life for many, many years, I’ve been in their shoes, because when I was a little boy, 10 years old, I was running around, a pimply face, wide big brown eyes, and a really messed-up afro, yeah, this was very true. I’m half black and half Samoan, so trust me, my hair didn’t know what to do. You have to — I mean, so much so between the ages of 9 and 11 everybody thought I was a little girl, yeah, true story, that’s why I need therapy. So but I was — oh, hand clap for therapy, yup. But a big hand clap for therapy, yeah.

So, so the ones in the seats, and I thought at ten years old, I went back and I thought, yeah, so I was the one in the seats. And I used to sit in the seats and I used to watch, and I used to watch my dad and I used to watch my grandfather. And for those of you in the room who don’t know, which is probably most of you who don’t know this, I come from a long line of a professional wrestlers. And my grandfather and my dad wrestled, but well before the big contracts of pro wrestling these days. Wrestled here, all throughout New York City, sometimes at Madison Square Garden, but usually they were in, like, dank arenas filled with smoke and beer. But at ten years old, I still sat in the seats, and I watched my wrestling heroes, and I dreamed. And then every week, without a shadow of a doubt, every week on Saturdays I would go to the theaters, and I would watch my movie star heroes, in the seats. And I’m watching, and I watched my Hollywood heroes, I loved Clint Eastwood. And, I mean, when Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark hit, I thought, I want to be that guy, I want to be Indiana Jones. And, again, in the seats, dreaming of Indiana Jones, just with more muscles and no pimples. But I was in the seats.

And Marc Benioff — did I pronounce your name right, Marc? I’m just making sure — said to me earlier, he said something really profound and I really loved it, and I asked him to repeat it. And he says, ‘We often overestimate what we can do in a year, underestimate what we can do in decades.’

Overestimate what we could do in a year, underestimate what we could do in decades. And here I am years later, decades later, here with all of you distinguished guests, very successful, highly influential all around the globe, and now I get to be that guy who is enjoying this blessing. Because really, that’s what it is, we’re all so blessed in this room, what big blessings, yeah, we’re so blessed, look at this. And now I get to be the guy, so blessed and so lucky, I’m like I’m the luckiest son of a bitch in the room, that people all around the world will now go sit in the seats and watch me. I thought, man, you know what?

So I’m going to raise a glass of my tequila, which is over there, to the ones who really for me and in my life really make the whole thing happen, make this whole dance happen. And I think it happens for all of us, where it’s — it’s the fans, and it’s the audience, and it’s the people, and it’s that human connection, Gayle, that we were talking about, a human connection when you’re able to impact people. It’s that human connection, it’s the consumer, it’s these people, I feel, that make it all work.

So to everybody watching, I’m going to post this to about 200 million people, this is for you, I love you and I thank you. And to all you guys in the room, congratulations on your recognition tonight, so well deserved, it’s a pleasure meeting so many of you and shaking your hands and giving you hugs. TIME magazine, thank you for putting me on the cover, I really appreciate it. And by the way, I’ve gone from that pimply kid to the cover of TIME Magazine, holy shit. Man.

So the toast for me of the night goes to the ones in the seats. Thank you guys so much.

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Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com