Oprah Winfrey accepted her Cecil B. DeMille Award on Sunday night at the Golden Globes with a message to the young girls watching: "A new day is on the horizon."
The media moghul became the first black woman to receive the Cecil B. DeMille award. During her speech she said: “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 had ever seen. I remember his tie was white and, of course, his skin was black. I had 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 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 and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them, and also with the incredible men and women who’ve inspired, who challenge me, who sustain me and who made my journey to this stage possible. Dennis Swanson who took a chance on me for ‘AM Chicago,’ Quincy Jones who saw me on that show and said to Steven Spielberg, ‘Yes she is Sophia from The Color Purple,’ Gayle who is the definition of what a friend is and Stedman who is my rock. Just a few to name.
I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press…you all now the press is under siege these days.You also know it is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye from corporation and to injustice. To tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. I want to say 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. 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 stories. But it’s not just the story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends and 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 in academia, and engineering, medicine and science. They are part of the world of tech and politics and in business. They are athletes in the Olympics and they are soldiers in the military.
And there’s someone else, Recy Taylor. A name I know 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 when she was abducted by six armed white men raped, and left by the side of the road. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone. But her story was reported to the NAACP where a young woman named Rosa Parks became became a lead investigator on her case. And together they sought justice. But justice wasn’t justice 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 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.
I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who who were tormented in those years, and even now who are tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks’ heart, almost 11 years later. when she decided to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery. And it’s here in every woman who chooses to say “me too” and 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 have 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 and 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.”