Manner of Speaking

Analysis of a speech by Oprah Winfrey

Advertisements

The 2018 Golden Globe Awards were handed out last night (7 January 2018). There were several highlights and many winners, but the overwhelming consensus is that Oprah Winfrey stole the show.

Winfrey, a talk show host, actress and philanthropist was honoured as the first black woman to win the Cecil B DeMille lifetime achievement award. She used her acceptance speech to repudiate racial injustice, abuse against women and attacks against the press.

It was a powerful speech that brought the audience to its feet for prolonged applause on more than one occasion. The speech, in full, is below. My thoughts follow.

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.

[W]e 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 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.

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 and engineering and 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.

For two excellent analyses of Oprah’s speech, see:

  1. Sam Leith’s article in the Financial Times. (If you are blocked from reading the article by the FT’s firewall, the first link on this Google search might work for you.
  2. Nick Morgan’s post in Public Words.
Advertisements

Advertisements