During a night full of inspiring moments at the Golden Globes — nearly every star wore black and made statements in support of the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements — Oprah Winfrey stole the show with the most empowering speech of the night. Winfrey was the first black woman to be given the Cecil B. DeMille Award, which honors “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment,” in its 66-year history.
Before Winfrey accepted the award, her A Wrinkle in Time costar Reese Witherspoon celebrated her many (many) achievements. Besides being a giver of life-changing hugs, which Witherspoon called “the best thing ever,” Winfrey, 63, was nominated for Golden Globe and Academy Awards for her role in 1985’s The Color Purple, won more than a dozen Daytime Emmy and NAACP Image Awards for her long-running talk show, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2013. She’s also donated hundreds of millions of dollars to education-related charities, including her own Oprah’s Angel Network, and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, the school she opened in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2007.
Read Oprah’s goosebumps-inducing speech — which left many in the audience in tears and received several standing ovations — in full:
“In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for Best Actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: ‘The winner is Sidney Poitier.’ Up to the stage came the most elegant man I ever remembered. His tie was white, his skin was black — and he was being celebrated. I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats, as my mom came through the door, bone tired from cleaning other people’s houses. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney’s performance in Lilies of the Field: ‘Amen, amen. Amen, amen.’ In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille Award right here at the Golden Globes, and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award.
“It is an honor — it is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them, and also with the incredible men and women who have inspired me, who challenged me, who sustained me and made my journey to this stage possible. Dennis Swanson who took a chance on me for A.M. Chicago, saw me on the show and said to Steven Spielberg, she’s Sophia in The Color Purple. Gayle, who’s been a friend, and Stedman, who’s been my rock. I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. We know the press is under siege these days. We also know it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before, as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this.
“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story. But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So, I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.
“There’s someone else: Recy Taylor. A name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and mother walking home from a church service she’d attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the NAACP, where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case, and together they sought justice. But justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men.
“For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up. Their time is up. And I just hope — I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks’s heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery, and it’s here with every woman who chooses to say, ‘Me too.’ And every man — every man who chooses to listen. In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave. To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere, and how we overcome. I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights.
“So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘me too’ again. Thank you.”
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