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Inspiring Leadership or Presidential Level

Oprah’s Speech

I’m not a big (traditional) TV watcher and don’t have cable. I spend my screen time watching netflix shows and HBO movies, but normal network tv has gone past me. I really only miss a few things: falling asleep in the fall while watching football games, the joy of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the detail of the Rose Parade floats, the skill and accomplishment of athletes in the Olympics, and trying to get as many answers right on Jeopardy as my dad. Award shows have never been on my watch list. I check out the pretty dresses online the following day, read a quick blog about what happened, and watch a video of the 1 funny joke that was told.

This Monday morning was different. When I opened up Facebook the #goldenglobes news was all about Oprah’s speech, the women linked in solidarity dressed in black, and the amazing activists that they brought with them, #metoo.

The first thing I did was watch Oprah’s Speech. It is 10 mins that everyone should take. Watch it here. Please.

And/or read the Transcript of it here:

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’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that. And I tried have tried many, 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’ve inspired me, who’ve challenged me, who’ve 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’s been the definition of what a friend is and Stedman, who’s been my rock. Just a few to name.

I’d like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, because we all know the press is under siege these days. But we also know that it is 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 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.

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 a mother. She was just 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 10 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 dared to speak their 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’s 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. And 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 and 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. Thank you. 

(Source: The Atlantic)

As I watched this speech I was moved. I was deeply appreciative for the honor she showed the people who had come before and struggled for positive change. I was heart broken for the victims of oppression and violence that she spoke of, both named and unnamed. I felt triumph to hear how many became survivors and beacons of light for a better world. And I felt hopeful for a better world that can be created. I felt so many things. Most were difficult to put into words. In fact, in the comments of my friend’s post I said very little.

Deep insights, I know. The statement of “A presidential level speech” was pretty much tacked on, as my mind swam through the words I had just heard, and the emotions it stirred.

But it seems I am not the only one who thought it was presidential. In fact, that has become the story more so than what was said in the speech. If Oprah runs for President in 2020, good on her, but what I realized we are all reacting to the leadership shows us in the quality and substance of this speech.

It’s a good speech. A damn good one. One that connects, educates, and inspires. It is memorable, and both classic and timely. It is a speech we expect from a leader. It is a speech we expect of a president.

And here is the pain point -It is a speech many levels above those we have heard in a while.

New Normal

When President Trump came into office, everyone on the left said keep fighting, don’t let yourself adjust to a new normal. But our “normal” has changed in the last year. We check twitter for news on the direction of our country, we follow one crazy headline that outrages us to the next, and everyone, on all sides, seems depressed and fearful of the opinions and deeds of all other people. We are beyond partisanship and nearly at tribal conflict.

This speech reminded me of so many of the other things we have forgotten in this new normal. Primarily that:

Great inspiration is all around us. We can connect and find our common ground (even without a named enemy). And we have the hutzpah to build the good stuff for the future for all. 

This is what a good leader does:Connect, Educate / Guide, Inspire

It is in the speech above, and it has been seen in History. -Teddy Rosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” Speech is another amazing stand out.

And while not an traditional leader, Maya Angelo enveloped this connection and inspiration in her poetry and writings.

, From Ben Franklin to Steve JobsI can think of countless famous people who have done this through speeches and writings as well.

Part of what has made these men and women know is their grasp of leadership and their ability to change the world for the better.

It is wonderful to see this inspiration right on my laptop screen on a Monday morning. Tt is even more wonderful to see it in the world around me, and to begin to cultivate it in myself. We all can be great leaders.

So, listen and read the words in the speech above; be inspired by them, and grow your leadership. One day, they too may be presidential.


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