OPRAH: A VERB, AN ADJECTIVE, AND A FEELING
Who is the most inspirational woman of our lifetime? Like Reese Witherspoon said last night, "there's only one person whose name is a verb, an adjective, and a feeling." Her name alone can make you strive to be the best version of yourself. Her name is Oprah Winfrey.
Last night, Ms. Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement at the Golden Globes, becoming only the first African American woman in the history of the Globes to receive such an honor. And when she took to the stage, she began her acceptance speech by talking about the little girl who watched the legendary Sidney Poitier accept his Golden Globes Best Actor Award over 50 years ago.
"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, and I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that."
Ms. Winfrey said that she has never been able to fully explain what that moment felt like. The best she came up with was a quote from Mr. Poitier's winning performance in Lilies of the Field, "Amen, amen, amen, amen."
Her historic turn on the award's stage and the impact it was bound to have on viewers, especially young girls, wasn't lost on Ms. Winfrey. She took the moment to add her words of wisdom, hope, and encouragement to the #MeToo movement.
"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," Ms. Winfrey said forcefully, her voice unwavering, as she looked out into the audience. "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."
Then, Ms. Winfrey told the story of Recy Taylor.
"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."
Ms. Winfrey knows how easy it is for the powerful to get away with the most horrendous acts. She was beaten as a child -- until she bled. She was forced to sleep on the porch when she was six, and she was raped when she was nine. Ms. Winfrey gave birth to a baby boy when she was only 14 years old.
"I would tell no one until I felt safe enough to share my dark past: the years I was sexually abused, from age 10 to 14, my resulting promiscuity as a teenager, and finally, at 14, my becoming pregnant." She wrote in the February 2007 issue of O, a monthly lifestyle magazine which she founded in 2000.
Through it all, Ms. Winfrey has risen to be the beacon that many look to. She's a hero's hero. She's a mother, best friend, and sister to us all. She is a hug at the end of a long day. She is a guide who is there to help us navigate the rough waters. Most importantly, she is what we all should aspire to be. And we need her now more than ever.
Read the full transcript of her speech.