It's hard to overstate what Altman has meant to American movies. Always unconventional, his improvisational techniques, innovative use of sound, long takes, and broad, rambling stories have, over the years, given Hollywood entirely new ways too look at filmmaking. Though they can never like the man enough to just vote for him already, Academy members decided Altman deserves a lifetime award because of his "innovation, his redefinition of genres, his invention of new ways of using the film medium and his reinvigoration of old ones." Amen.
I think it's safe to assume that Altman will not be spending the next two months carefully revising his acceptance speech. Whatever he says, we'll get to hear it on March 5, during the thirteen hour Oscar ceremony.