A Lesson in Inspiration and Motivation

This is worth every minute.

I don’t care if she is running or not running for President.  (When he was thinking of running under the Reform ticket in 1999, Trump wanted Oprah as his VP.)  What is important — and what people are responding to — is a truthful and optimistic story that does not ignore our worst history to engage our better angels.  To engage that part of ourselves that wants to do better and wants better for our communities and does not need to sacrifice our institutions to get there.  The Presidential question is a sideshow (altho I admit to laughing out loud to a picture of The Rock from last might that was captioned — The Look You Get When You Have to Settle for VP), the lesson in rhetorical inspiration is a serious one.


In case Dick Clark Productions squashes any more YouTube vids of Oprah’s speech, here is the full transcript:

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. 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.” Quincy Jones who saw me on that show and said to Steven Spielberg, “Yes, she is Sophia in ‘The Color Purple.'” Gayle who has been the definition of what a friend is, and Stedman who has been my rock — just a few to name.

I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because we all 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.

You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas. -- Shirley Chisolm

6 comments on “A Lesson in Inspiration and Motivation

  1. cassandram

    Hijacking my own thread to note that a month or so back Sterling K Brown (who also won an award last night) damn near broke Twitter when he told Aaron Sorkin that he would be delighted to be the President on a West Wing reboot.

  2. As soon as I saw the headline of this post I knew Cassandra had fallen in love again. It’s Ok to have a celebrity run the country, just not the current one, AND, it should be a female!

    • cassandram

      LOL — seriously I don’t have a dog in the Should She or Shouldn’t She race. But I do think that Oprah caught the leadership quality that we most miss right now. I suspect we miss it enough to latch on to anyone with this capability for President from now until 2020.

  3. I think, we’ve had enough of the “celebrity” types.

  4. Well strike me dead I agree with Anono! Seriously the lesson of not only Trump but Reagan as well has yet to be learned in this country. We remain easily manipulated, willing dupes for the next well turned phrase and strong sales pitch.

  5. We Dems have to focus first on values we espouse to fix our very broken democracy and very broken capitalistic system which has been a major contributor to our broken democracy. Solutions stated as broad values and we then have to decide on a smart, articulate and governance experienced candidate to champion those solutions. Heroes won’t cut it, celebs won’t cut it. Experience, commitment and a likeable personality will cut it and the latter has to be taken into consideration, distasteful or not. Yes, this is in part a marketing exercise and Democrats must comprehend this necessity with the media culture wer’e having to live with until we can fix a broken education system that has resulted in the electoral ignorance around us.

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