Winfrey began her address for the Cecil B. DeMille Award, the event’s career prize, by noting how her life changed when she saw Sidney Poitier win his landmark Oscar in 1964. Then she wound down her remarks by lauding “hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights.”
In the few minutes between, she not only brought the room to a roar but ignited speculation she could challenge the Republican president in 2020.
On social media and at the parties that followed at the Beverly Hilton where the Golden Globes take place — thrown by Netflix, Fox and others celebrating their nominees — the topic hung heavy in the air. Talk that Winfrey could defeat President Trump or another Republican nominee was countered by the argument that such hopes were premature and ignored Winfrey’s lack of political experience. For every five people excited about the idea, there was reliably one who dismissed it as Hollywood-liberal fantasy.
One of the evening’s most famous guests, however, was on board.
“She launched a rocket tonight. I want her to run for president,” Streep told The Post from the ballroom right after the show ended. “I don’t think she had any intention [of declaring]. But now she doesn’t have a choice.”
Like many incipient presidential runs, there has been little indication of interest from the prospective candidate herself. There may not have needed to be — at least not judging by the oratory. Winfrey’s speech had a stump-like quality, earning raves for its inspirational tone, its careful balance of deep scars of racial and gender injustice with an optimism that they could be healed.
“To say how we experience shame,” Winfrey said, describing her philosophy in tackling entertainment projects, “how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere and how we overcome.”
She spoke of brutal crimes committed against Recy Taylor, an African American woman in Alabama in 1944, but injected hope when she spoke of Rosa Parks investigating her case.
She talked about the #MeToo sexual misconduct movement that has gripped Hollywood and other industries, speaking about “a culture broken by brutally powerful men.” But she ended on an optimistic note. “A new day,” she said, “is on the horizon.”
Standing in the same spot a year ago, Streep also mixed realism with a call to arms after the show ended, as she stood alongside Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, whom she had brought as her guest. Without naming Trump, she leveled a shot at the then-president elect — so much so that he tweeted the next day that she was an “overrated” actress.
“When the powerful use their position to bully others,” she had said upon accepting the award, “we all lose.”
Yet again Sunday night, Streep did not name the president. And yet again, she didn’t need to.
“It was a barnburner,” she noted to The Post of Winfrey’s speech. “She runs a major company. She could lead the country. Instead of leading the country down.”