Oprah Winfrey on Sunday declared a “new day” for women and girls facing down abusive men as her powerful speech to the Golden Globe Awards stirred talk that she has a political future.
Within moments of the daytime television trailblazer’s remarks at the Hollywood gala, effusive fans called for her to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020, although she has given no indication she is interested.
The 63-year-old Winfrey, whose former talk show ushered in an era of confessional television and helped make her a billionaire, delivered a forceful but tightly focused speech that brought together issues of gender, poverty and race as she accepted a lifetime achievement award.
She saluted the #MeToo movement that has quickly gained steam after revelations of rampant sexual misconduct by film mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Paying tribute to Recy Taylor, an African American woman who daringly reported her 1944 gang rape by six white men in Alabama and died last month just short of her 98th birthday, Winfrey deplored “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!” Winfrey said to a standing ovation and even some tears in the audience.
“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,” she said.
Winfrey highlighted her own life rising up from a violence-scarred childhood.
She recalled her awe as a girl watching television in Milwaukee when Sidney Poitier became the first black person to win the Oscar for best actor in 1964.
She also hailed the role of the media, so often maligned by Trump as “fake news”.
“It’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice,” she said.
“I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times.”
At the start of the Golden Globes, host Seth Meyers playfully encouraged Winfrey to run for president against Trump, who made history by winning despite never holding a previous political or military position.
Meyers had appeared at the now infamous 2011 White House Correspondents Association dinner where he and then president Barack Obama mocked the idea of Trump in the White House.
The real estate mogul fumed in his seat.
“Some have said that night convinced him to run. So, if that’s true, I just want to say, Oprah, you will never be president. You do not have what it takes,” Meyers said, while also proposing actor Tom Hanks as a vice presidential candidate.
For some of Winfrey’s fans, a presidential run did not seem far-fetched after her speech, with the topic quickly taking off on social media.
“As I sit here in tears…I have never ever seen such a speech,” the country singer Billy Gilman wrote on Twitter.
“@Oprah, my friend. Please run for President. This world needs more of THAT. WOW.”
As I sit here in tears…I have never ever seen such a speech. @Oprah, my friend. Please run for President. This world needs more of THAT. WOW.
— Billy Gilman (@BillyGilman) January 8, 2018
Winfrey had generally stayed away from overt politics until the 2008 election when she campaigned vigorously for Obama in an endorsement credited with helping him secure the Democratic Party’s nomination.
The then governor of Illinois briefly considered Winfrey to replace Obama in the Senate, but she did not voice interest.
With her vast audience and quickly relatable style, Winfrey has long been considered one of America’s most influential celebrities.
Her show has helped raise discussion in the US on issues ranging from gay rights to abusive puppy breeding mills, while her endorsement power is avidly sought by the publishing industry.