Oprah Winfrey may not be running for president — yet — but on Sunday, it felt like she was kicking off her campaign.
Accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 75th Golden Globes on a night focused on sexual harassment within the entertainment business, the talk show guru brought the crowd of black-clad celebrities to their feet with a rousing speech about the power of speaking out against abuse and injustice.
Even before she took the stage, Winfrey was the center of attention. In his opening monologue, host Seth Meyers joked about his hope that she’d run for president (with Tom Hanks as her vice presidential running mate). Award winners Sterling K. Brown of “This Is Us” and Rachel Brosnahan of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” both gave Winfrey shout-outs in their acceptance speeches.
Winfrey was introduced by Reese Witherspoon, her costar in Disney’s upcoming “A Wrinkle in Time.” A montage highlighted not only Winfrey’s influential 25-year run as host of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” but her accomplishments as an Oscar-nominated actress and producer of films and television series such as “Precious,” “The Great Debaters” and “Queen Sugar.”
“Thank you for the grace, the wisdom,” Witherspoon said. “You’ve changed our lives.”
The first black woman to be honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award, Winfrey began her speech by recalling the impact of watching Sidney Poitier win a lead actor Oscar in 1964 for “Lilies of the Field.”“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 the same award,” she said.
After a nod to the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and the role of journalists in a fraught time, Winfrey turned to the subject that has dominated Hollywood for months: sexual harassment and abuse.
“Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories we tell, and this year we became the story,” she said. “But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry.”
Winfrey, a sexual abuse survivor, expressed gratitude to “the women whose names we’ll never know” working in other, less glamorous industries who “endured years of abuse because they, like my mother, had children to feed.”
She cited the story of Recy Taylor, a black woman who in 1944 was gang-raped by six white men in Alabama. Taylor died Dec. 28.
“She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men,” said Winfrey. “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.”
As the celebrities in the room rose to give her a standing ovation, Winfrey closed with a message for “all the girls watching here,” telling them “a new day is on the horizon” and expressing hope for a time “when nobody ever has to say ‘me too’ again.”
After her speech, Winfrey greeted Tarana Burke, the activist who founded the #MeToo movement, with a hug. Burke, who used Winfrey’s messages in workshops, later called it a “full-circle moment.”
“It meant so much to me. I don’t even want her for the presidency. I just want to create something new for her,” Burke said.
Stedman Graham, Winfrey’s longtime partner, hinted that Winfrey might be up for a run at the White House. “It’s up to the people,” he told The Times. “She would absolutely do it.”
The reaction from celebrities on social media, where the hashtag #Oprah2020 was soon trending, and in the room at the Beverly Hilton suggested that Winfrey may be a formidable candidate. But trying out a run at the White House wasn’t her goal for the night.
“I’m just glad I got through the speech,” Winfrey told The Times. “I thought a lot about it. I wanted this to be a meaningful moment.”
Times staff writers Amy Kaufman and Jen Yamato contributed to this report.