The 2018 Golden Globes were filled with inspiring moments, from Hollywood’s most powerful actresses speaking out about the #TimesUp initiative and walking the red carpet with extraordinary activists, to Sterling K. Brown’s history-making win for This Is Us. But one of the most memorable parts of the night was when Oprah Winfrey accepted the 2018 Cecil B. DeMille Award with a speech that left the audience — and millions of viewers across the country — in tears.
Reese Witherspoon, who costars with Winfrey in Disney’s upcoming A Wrinkle in Time movie, was on hand to present the honor. “When I learned I’d get to introduce Oprah tonight, I began asking people, ‘If you could say one thing to Oprah, what would you say?’ And they all said different things, but every answer started the same: ‘Tell her thank you. Tell her thank you for teaching us, for inspiring us, for encouraging us. Thank you for seeing us.’ So, Oprah, thank you for your grace and your generosity and your wisdom. And thank you for your powerful contributions to the world of film and television. In this and everything you do, you’ve changed our lives.”
When Winfrey herself took the stage, she proved why she’s one of the most beloved women in the business — nay, in the country. After thanking the crowd for their standing ovation, she recalled watching Sidney Poitier accept the Oscar for Best Actor in 1964, when she was a young girl in Milwaukee.
“Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white, and of course his skin was black, and I’d never seen a Black man being celebrated like that. And I have tried many, 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 [is] in Sidney’s performance in Lilies of the Field: ‘Amen, amen, amen, amen.'”
She then recalled when Poitier received the Cecil B. DeMille award in 1982. “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,” she said.
From there, she went on to thank those in her life who have meant so much, including her best friend Gayle King and longtime partner Stedman Graham. She then acknowledged the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, saying, “We all know that the press is under siege these days. But we also know that it is 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.”
She continued: “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,” she added. “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.
“And 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 a mother. She was just 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 10 days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday.”
Winfrey continued: “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 dared to speak their 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’ 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.”
She finished, “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.”
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(Photo via Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty)