Last night I saw the Golden Globes. I always hold my breath for a good speech when I watch award shows. Who will say something that resonates, that makes you think, that makes you cry, that makes you dream bigger?
Then Oprah was called to the stage. She was, as always, authentic, powerful and speaking the truth.
Some of what she said was, “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 is in Sidney’s performance in “Lilies of the Field,” “Amen, Amen… Amen, Amen.””
She went on to say, “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…
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 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…
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.”
The room was electric. Everyone stood and applauded. And millions of people watching from their living rooms and bedrooms clapped and said, “Yes! Oprah! Yes!”
We can all be leaders like Oprah. There are people watching us every day. Following how we decide to live our lives, what we speak up for and what we stay silent about.
As French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” Who can we inspire by giving them hope that tomorrow will be a better day? By reminding them that we have all we need to be the change we wish to see? You might not be giving an acceptance speech at an awards show, but you can definitely inspire someone right at this moment. You are a leader. Lead on.