Oprah Delivered What We’re Desperate For
Four days ago, Oprah Winfrey took to the stage at the Golden Globes and inspired everyone (including Ivanka) with a powerful speech that has reverberated around the globe and prompted a call for her to seek the presidency.
First, the speech was that good. It followed a similar construction of the speech a nationally unknown state senator gave at the Boston convention in 2004 that put him on the national stage on his way to being a two-term president — a deeply personal story that becomes our collective story and a call to arms around the power of hope.
Her speech started with a very personal and specific story about her watching Sidney Poitier accept an Academy Award and the impact it had on her as a young African-American girl. It created a sense of possibility for her as “a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people’s houses.” This is reminiscent of the Barack Obama’s story that he told of his grandfather who was a cook and domestic servant in Kenya to the British. But just like Oprah he had a belief instilled in him at a young age that more was possible.
Oprah then goes on to bring us all in. To show how her story is a part of a larger collective story. How women from all walks of life have struggled because they faced sexism and have been too afraid to speak up and speak their truth. She then tells the powerful story of a woman who had the courage to speak up even at one of the worst periods of our history. Recy Taylor did speak up and told the truth. Oprah showed through Recy’s story how important it is that we all have the ability to speak our truth. By making this story about all of us, she accomplished the same thing Obama did in Boston when he said “I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story.” She made it about all of us.
Finally, she hits a chord that rang so pure and true, that everyone recognized how beautiful it was. Hope. It is almost as if we had forgotten over the past year what it sounded like. But it still moves us, inspires us and makes us want to take action to make it possible.
The killer line that brought everyone to their feet and gave many goosebumps is when she closes passionately and optimistically — “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 reminds us of what Barack Obama called on all of us to do in his speech—to believe in hope. “Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope: In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days ahead.”
This is what we so desperately need right now. It is what we have been so thirsty for. And Oprah was the first one in a long time to hit this note and remind of us of the kind of country we can be. Who knows what it means for presidential politics. But it was the exact right message at the right time, delivered beautifully.