Oprah Rocks! - Real Message Was About Us
Oprah's Powerful Speech (Daily Kos; Democracy Now!; Harper's Bazaar)
Oprah’s Real Message - It wasn’t about her. It was about us. - Dahlia Lithwick (Slate)
Oprah? Really? - Osita Nwanevu (Slate)
Oprah lit. it. up. at The Golden Globe awards in her acceptance speech
January 7, 2018
Talk show host, actress, author and producer Oprah Winfrey gave a fiery speech at Sunday’s Golden Globes Awards after she was presented with a lifetime achievement award by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
January 8, 2018
By Megan Friedman
January 7, 2018
Oprah Winfrey was the recipient of the Golden Globes' annual Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement, and gave a powerful acceptance speech during Sunday night's ceremony. She was introduced by Reese Witherspoon, who compared their time together on the set of A Wrinkle in Time to a master class at Harvard Business School and a spiritual retreat all in one. "Oprah's hugs could end wars, solve world peace," Witherspoon joked.
Once Winfrey took the stage, she delivered an inspirational, uplifting speech which discussed race and gender and the fight for equality. She also told the story of Recy Taylor, a woman who fought for justice in the Jim Crow era after she was raped. "For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men," Winfrey said, bringing the audience to its feet. "But their time is up. Their time is up."
Read the full transcript here:
"Thank you, Reese. 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—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.
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 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' 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."
It wasn’t about her. It was about us.
By Dahlia Lithwick
January 8, 2018
I loved Oprah’s Golden Globes speech on Sunday. It was mesmerizing, pitch perfect, and gave voice to many lifetimes of frustration and vindication with eloquence and a full authority she has earned. But I found the strange Facebook response of “Oprah 2020” weirdly discordant and disorienting. Oprah’s speech—in my hearing—wasn’t about why she needs to run for office. It was about why the rest of us need to do so, immediately.
The dominant theme I heard was about giving voice to invisible people. It was the arc of the entire speech. It’s also what the very best journalism is about, and it’s worth remembering that’s how Oprah began her career. The speech began with her goosebump-y tale of first seeing Sidney Poitier win an Academy Award in 1964 and how much of a revelation it was at the time to see a black man celebrated in America. Then it ran through to her chilling invocation of Recy Taylor, a young black woman who was raped in Alabama in 1944 by six white men who were never brought to justice. She deftly linked Taylor to Rosa Parks, who investigated the rape for the NAACP and then 11 years later refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery with Taylor “somewhere in her heart.” This was a speech about how seeing someone else model the fight against racism, sexism, and injustice activates us to fight alongside.
It was a testament to the greatest gifts she has as a journalist, actor, and media personality: the ability to shed light on the faceless and speak of justice and morality in ways that are urgent and original. That’s why the speech honored not just the women in sleek black dresses who were on their feet cheering her. The true message was about someone else:
Women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farmworkers. 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.
What I heard in her speech wasn’t a bid to save us all, but rather a powerful charge to the young girls watching at home to tell their own stories, to fight for their own values, and to battle injustices with the certainty that they will be seen and heard.
In a sense, this speech sounded in the key of Obama’s famously elusive spur to—as Gandhi urged—“be the change you want to see in the world.”
In so many ways, this was a maddening proposition when it was being pushed by a moderate Democrat such as Obama. And it was more maddening still when the president told leaders on the left that he needed them to pressure him further into their corner; that he couldn’t make that move on his own. This language of citizen empowerment and responsibility is also so painfully foreign at the moment with a sitting president for whom the greatest obligation of the citizenry is to adore and thank him (and spend money on his brand). We are being trained to believe that President Trump alone creates safer skies and restores coal-mining jobs; that passively accepting his leadership is the holy grail of change.
But what Winfrey and Obama talk about is the limits of top-down power. It is one of the great sins of this celebrity age that we continue to misread this message as a call to turn anyone who tries to deliver it into our savior. When someone tells you “I alone can fix it,” you should run screaming for the emergency exits. When someone tells you to get off your ass and fix it yourself, you should think first about running for office yourself.
Since the 2016 election, the cry one hears constantly from the left is “who will lead us?” But Democrats should have learned more than they have from November’s stunning electoral successes in Virginia. The lesson should have been that extraordinary and unknown candidates, including inspired and inspiring first-timers, could win elections without fame or fanfare.
I have no idea whether Winfrey plans to run for the Oval Office in 2020. According to reports, she is “actively” considering it. But I heard the force and dignity of her speech as a mirror held up to the country about our own responsibilities, accompanied by a very prominent shoutout to journalists for helping to tell those stories. This was a tribute to nameless women who have faced their own #MeToo moments without receiving attention or justice, and for today’s young black girls on linoleum floors who couldn’t previously imagine themselves winning a lifetime achievement award and woke up Monday thinking they just might.
It’s easy to devalue those words as cheese-puff throwaway lines. But for women who went to law school because they saw Sandra Day O’Connor on the high court (I was one) or Anita Hill before the Senate Judiciary Committee, this moment isn’t made of cheese. I will never in my life forget the lines of teenage Latina women snaked around the Senate to watch Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings. That was about more than just young people looking for a savior. We become what we see modeled and that is where #MeToo will intersect with 2018. On Sunday night, I heard Winfrey urging invisible people to speak up, become engaged, transform policy, and find their own power. It was a speech about moving from passivity and acceptance to furious, mobilized participation and a call for allies in that fight.
There is an interesting side debate about whether Winfrey should run for office raging on social media. But that should be ancillary to what she actually told us to do. It took a stable media genius to attempt to peel off the narcissism and solipsism of the celebrity culture in which we all seem to be permanently lodged. Maybe it’s destined that nobody will ever again be elected president who doesn’t have a billion-dollar media brand behind them. But the speech I heard last night was about using a billion-dollar media brand to remind young women of color that they, too, have the power to save us all.
[Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate and hosts the podcast Amicus. Her work has appeared in the New Republic, Commentary, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Elle, on CNN.com and as the legal commentator for the NPR show, Day to Day.]
The same political malaise that produced Donald Trump is now threatening to give us Oprah Winfrey.
By Osita Nwanevu
January 8, 2018
When world leaders came together in 2015 to settle on a framework for action on climate change, the resulting agreement set a goal of limiting the rise in global average temperatures from preindustrial levels to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. The climatologist Michael Mann, voicing what has been the scientific consensus for some time, has warned that warming beyond that could lead to “environmental ruin.” Recent research suggests, in fact, that if all carbon emissions worldwide ceased tomorrow, the Earth would still warm as much as 1.3 degrees by this century’s end. If we continue on our current path, we, and our children, and our children’s children, will face a world of not only immiserating and constantly spreading heat and sea-level rise but also intense storms that will devastate major cities, crop failures that will disrupt access to food, violent conflicts over environmental resources, communicable diseases given the conditions to spread far more widely and severely than they otherwise would, and a perpetual refugee crisis dwarfing many times over the Syrian exodus that has been exploited by a resurgent far-right in Europe—one rough guess suggests 1.4 billion people may be displaced by 2060. Many, many people will die.
Averting the worst of all this will not only demand the global leadership of the United States but also sweeping, disruptive, and permanent changes to the American energy economy—changes that will require government action and intervention to a degree not seen since the New Deal.
Now. Close your eyes and picture an ideal president. Someone capable of seriously engaging with not only the above but all of the challenges the 21stcentury will require us to face: inequality and economic stagnation for the vast majority of Americans, a health care system that still fails millions, and all the rest. Who have you pictured? Is it Oprah Winfrey? Is it really?
A few decades from now, if some poor historians put themselves through the trouble of assessing the hundreds of thousands of words the major press has dedicated to explaining why and how Donald Trump won the presidency, they will find few of them have been devoted to a fact that contributed to both his rise and the reception of Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech: The major figures on the contemporary American political scene are impossibly boring. With a few notable exceptions, every major presidential contender of our recent past seems small against the backdrop of the grand historical narrative we’ve weaved for ourselves. It is doubtful that there will be a movement someday to carve Marco Rubio into Mount Rushmore; contemporary politicians who speak at places like the site of Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech, as Hillary Clinton did in the summer of 2016, generally come off, to this observer, looking like children wearing their parent’s coats. Bored people can do inadvisable things, especially when alternatives to the status quo seem possible. We recently had a president who seemed, and was at least stylistically, out of the ordinary. He is gone now, although for $400,000 or so you can have him stir and inspire your corporate function. His absence makes the actual state of American political rhetoric more obvious—if you’re a largely nondescript white man with a clean record who can drone about “common-sense solutions” in a tone that meshes well with stock footage of rolling fields and manufacturing plants of ambiguous productive activity, a party headhunter will assuredly have a look at you.
We’re all, whether we know it or not, a little tired of this. In 2016, half of the country found itself tired enough to elect a television celebrity who, stupid and unpolished as he may be, is at least fascinating to watch and follow. And now, a number of Democrats who’ve spent the year wailing about this find themselves tired enough to consider a TV star of their own for the office.
They are not the same, obviously. Winfrey is articulate, has had a career defined more by its successes than its failures, and spoke more frankly Sunday night about the darkness that has shaped our history—racism, patriarchy—than most politicians. She is probably about as decent and noble a person as someone with over 40,000 times the net worth of the average American can be. These are, obviously, all qualities that would make her a highly compelling candidate to an electorate that will want to turn the page from the Trump presidency. It should be just as obvious that these qualities say little about her capacity to preside over a nation that faces a set of intractable and complex structural crises.
None of this is to say that political experience—that old, dry chestnut—is what counts the most here. Honesty with ourselves would force us to admit the country would be better off if we replaced every politician currently serving in Washington with a committee of social scientists, historians, and anxious, sweaty climatologists selected from the country’s major research universities at random. This is, of course, not the system of government we have, and we generally prefer filling the major political offices with people who know little, if anything, about the problems they are elected to fix. That’s an inevitable outcome of democracy, but ideally we’d be wise enough to save at least the presidency for those with deep knowledge of public policy.
The solution here is to select a president who can shape deep knowledge into a robust, truly ambitious agenda that promises a future for this country beyond the incomprehensible misery we are all barreling toward, a candidate who can wed expertise and vision with the novel political rhetoric and expression voters clearly crave. Finding that person may require us to demand more from the cast of political characters we’ve already given ourselves. It does not require that we settle for Oprah.
[Osita Nwanevu is a Slate staff writer. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of the South Side Weekly, an alternative weekly covering the South Side of Chicago, a Senior Editor at The New Islander, an online magazine in development, and a staff writer at the Chicago Policy Review. His work has appeared in Harper's, Slate, the Chicago Policy Review, the Chicago Reader, In These Times, and Mic.]