And just as in January, there was no question to whom she was referring in her speech, which was at times self-deprecating, poignant and politically provocative.
“If we live through this precarious moment, if his catastrophic instinct to retaliate doesn’t lead us to nuclear winter, we will have much to thank our current leader for,” Streep said, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “He will have woken us up to how fragile freedom is. The whip of the executive, through a Twitter feed, can lash and intimidate, punish and humiliate, delegitimize the press and imagined enemies with spasmodic regularity and easily provoked predictability.”
It was the first time the acclaimed actress had spoken so publicly about Trump since the Golden Globes. Her remarks last month triggered angry tweets the following morning from Trump, who called Streep “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood” and “a Hillary flunky who lost big.”
On Saturday night, Streep addressed Trump’s critical tweets about her.
“Yes, I am the most overrated, overdecorated and, currently, I am the most over-berated actress … of my generation,” she told the gala audience to laughter, according to the Associated Press.
Streep added that she had become a target of attacks since her Golden Globes speech, including from “brownshirts,” a reference to the Nazi militia. Her publicist did not immediately respond to the AP to elaborate on the attacks Streep cited.
“It’s terrifying to put the target on your forehead,” Streep said. “And it sets you up for all sorts of attacks and armies of brownshirts and bots and worse, and the only way you can do it is if you feel you have to. You have to! You don’t have an option. You have to.”
She said that her usual instinct was to stay at home and read, garden and “load the dishwasher” — but that “the weight of all these honors” drove her to continue to speak out.
In her nearly four-decade-long career, Streep has been nominated for 30 Golden Globe awards and 20 Academy Awards, more than any other actor for either honor. She has won both awards multiple times, along with numerous Emmys and Screen Actors Guild awards.
When Streep was named as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient, the performing arts center noted that “the sheer breadth and joy of her artistry counts as one of the most exhilarating cultural spectacles of our time.”
The American Film Institute presented her with its Life Achievement Award in 2004, citing “her unparalleled talent and integrity.” A decade later, Streep received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with the White House calling her “one of our nation’s greatest actors.”
On Saturday night, Streep received the Human Rights Campaign’s National Ally for Equality Award. She dedicated the honor to her gay and transgender teachers, colleagues and friends. In particular, Streep remembered two teachers from her childhood in New Jersey: a middle-school music teacher who became one of the first transgender women in the country, and her piano teacher, who lived with his partner for more than 50 years.
“I am not going to introduce you to all my gay teachers, just some of the most influential personalities in my past, the memorable people who made me an artist and who lived, unnecessarily, under duress,” Streep said.
She then spoke about the progress that had been made in recent decades on human rights and equality.
“Amazingly, and, in terms of human history, blazingly fast, culture seemed to have shifted; the old hierarchies and entitlements seemed to have been upended,” Streep said. “Which brings us to now. We should not be surprised that fundamentalists, of every stripe, are exercised and fuming. We should not be surprised that these profound changes come at a steeper cost than we originally thought. We should not be surprised that not everyone is actually cool with it.”
Streep ended with a call “to live our lives with God or without Her,” according to the AP.
“All of us have the human right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” she said. “If you think people were mad when they thought the government was coming after their guns, wait until you see when they try to take away our happiness.”
Read a transcript of Meryl Streep’s speech via the Hollywood Reporter.