The term, which became a main theme of the latter part of the speech, sent viewers at home scurrying to their nautical dictionaries and Hollywood luminaries in the Beverly Hilton alternately smiling or raising eyebrows at the vintage Bridges fillip. As the DeMille honoree explained, a trim tab is a small mechanism that helps stabilize a large ship or aircraft. Bridges credited philosopher, architect and inventor Buckminster Fuller with evoking the obscure piece of equipment, using it as a metaphor for an individual’s ability effect societal change.
“I like to think of myself as a trim tab,” Bridges said. “All of us are trim tabs. We seem like we’re not up to the task,