Last night, at the 74th Golden Globes, Meryl Streep was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement. A true master at her art and my favorite actor (male or female), Meryl Streep has enriched cinema with her inimitable presence, her searing insights into the lives of the characters she portrays, and her uncanny inability to play the most diverse of roles – from a young Polish ingenue with a tragic story to to a religious sister, a prime minister, and even an old Rabbi, in almost every conceivable movie genre. As she accepted her award, she delivered a short, eloquent speech that touched on the recent uptick in violence that has surfaced as a result of the recent presidential election. Speaking about the presence and contributions of foreigners, the importance of freedom of the press, and the vicious attacks on minority groups, specifically the disabled, she said, “It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.”
Furthermore, she spoke about the normalization of hate and violence that has accompanied Donald Trump’s victory. “This instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.” This normalization, as people such as Paulo Freire and Marx have observed, will breed more of the same odious things. The violence that is inflicted on marginalized groups, whether people of color, foreigners, LGBT, the disabled, or religious minorities, will be met with even more violence because, as Meryl noted, “Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”
Thank you again Meryl, for giving us this gift of your wisdom, your beauty, and your grace. The video and full transcript are available below:
“Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Please sit down. Please sit down. Thank you. I love you all. You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend. And I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year. So I have to read.
Thank you, Hollywood foreign press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said. You and all of us in this room, really, belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it. Hollywood, foreigners, and the press. But who are we? And, you know, what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places.
I was born and raised and created in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola [Davis] was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, and grew up in Central falls, Long Island. Sarah Paulson was raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids from Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Italy. Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Ethiopia, raised in — no, in Ireland, I do believe. And she’s here nominated for playing a small town girl from Virginia. Ryan Gosling, like all the nicest people, is Canadian. And Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, is here for playing an Indian raised in Tasmania.
Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. If you kick ’em all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts. They gave me three seconds to say this. An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that, breathtaking, passionate work.
There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.
And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.
This brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage.That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in our constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the committee to protect journalists. Because we’re going to need them going forward. And they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.
One more thing. Once when I was standing around on the set one day whining about something, we were going to work through supper, or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor. Yeah, it is. And we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be very proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight.
As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art. Thank you.”