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Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech steals show

The speech revived the call for Winfrey to run for president.

Oprah Winfrey holds her Cecil B. DeMille Award

Oprah Winfrey holds her Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Well, that was quite a show. And imagine: The best part was that it lasted only nine minutes. The Oprah Show at the Golden Globes was, really, the only show worth watching. Everything else was just show: A parade of awards, and speeches, and good vibes, and opprobrium directed at the oppressors -- there in name, or mostly not-name, only.

As usual, or as expected, it was left to Oprah to pull it all together in one extended nine-minute applause line that woke up that already self-appointed woke audience Sunday –- and wake everyone else at home who was waiting for the only real moment (all nine of them) worth waiting for.

Oprah Winfrey -- in accepting her Cecil B. DeMille Award – did and does what Oprah does so well and has done so well for 35 years. She read the room, and largely read it from the book of her own making: A young girl, growing up in Milwaukee, who one day looks at the TV screen, and there is Sidney Poitier receiving the Oscar for “Lilies of the Field” in 1964. In an instant, she fused the past with the present, Poitier with Winfrey, black with black, and reminding everyone — if only tacitly -- that the entire history of the Golden Globes had passed without having awarded the DeMille to an African-American woman. She was the first.

Her voice just above a hoarse whisper, she then invoked Recy Taylor. Taylor -- abducted and raped by six white men on the night of Sept. 3, 1944 -- never received justice, but she did live long enough to see a documentary on her life and ordeal, by “American Masters” producer Nancy Buirski, just not long enough to see this Winfrey tribute. She died on Dec. 28, at the age of 97.

Frontloading her speech with that little girl in front of a TV set, followed by the invocation to Taylor, Winfrey then had the crowd right where she wanted them — in the palm of both hands, helpless before the power of O. There was no escaping the rhetorical thunder to follow, or the sonic boom that wrapped it all up: “For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.”

It was masterful and of course set up the inevitable question. Is Oprah running for president, or what? The inevitable hashtags (#Oprah2020) sprouted, the inevitable Monday morning show quarterbacking followed. But this time, the inevitable question got an intriguing answer: “It’s up to the people,” Stedman Graham, Winfrey’s longtime companion, told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. “She would absolutely do it.”

Meanwhile, CNN reported Monday morning that Oprah is “actively thinking” about a run, citing “two of her close friends,” both anonymous.

Would she run? That’s probably not so inevitable. The Winfrey-for-president movement stretches back 20 years, at least, the prospect raised yet again on May 25, 2011, when “The Oprah Winfrey Show” finally wrapped. She was a huge booster of Barack Obama’s candidacy, and was a somewhat less enthusiastic backer of Hillary Clinton’s second run. During her show, she avoided politics, reasoning that was a good way to lose half your audience.

But the show is long gone, the world has changed, and something especially changed Sunday night. Maybe someone did as well. Oprah Winfrey gave a speech with all the right beats, all the right moves, and all the right lines. It wasn’t engineered for a room, but for a nation. A triumphant Oprah must have liked the way it sounded, and liked the way it played. Maybe 2020 isn’t so far off -- or far-fetched -- after all.

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