Being an experienced TV talk show host, actress and producer, Oprah has the charisma to deliver a compelling speech. What struck me is how she owns the stage. She makes it look easy and natural suggesting her preparation was meticulous.
She opens with a vignette, a brief personal recollection and in typical storytelling style sets the scene – 1964 on a linoleum floor in Milwaukee. Its simple, personal and evocative. Her confidence fuels a desire to want to hear more. In just a few lines she has captured the audience’s attention and created anticipation.
Eloquently portrayed, Sidney Poitier is the protaganist of Oprah’s opening story. She adds a strong visual element by vividly describing him and infuses her description with passion, expressing what she felt at the time. She does this very economically by using a single and strong white tie/black skin contrast.
As with any good story there are obstacles that need to be overcome and challenges that are faced. Oprah delicately refers to this saying that when she was a girl how rare it was to see a black person being celebrated and honoured for outstanding achievement. Also saying that she is the first black woman to receive the award implies many difficulties were encountered along the way.
The resolution of her story is a dream come true. The story began in 1964 and we are brought to the present moment. She is now the one being acknowledged in the same way as Sidney Poitier was back then and she takes responsibility for being a role model.
Oprah’s acceptance speech has a message:
To maintain hope for a brighter morning and noboby having to say #MeToo again. To illustrate this Oprah goes on to tell the story about Recy Taylor. A story she chose because it is relevant to her message. She keeps the details of the story down to the absolute essentials, imparting only what is necessary to get her message across, it is pleasantly devoid of fluff and padding. While telling this story and indeed throughout her whole speech variations in her tone of voice is masterful. The way she says, “Just walking home,” is light and airy yet strongly contrasts with how she adds emphasis and force to the word kill in, “They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone.”
Again she adds relevance to the story of Recy Taylor and brings it closer to us by announcing that Recy had recently passed on.
She tells us how women’s personal stories of abuse have culminated into the wider #MeToo movement and the collective story has trancended race, religion and politics. She emphasises that, “Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”
Oprah skilfully integrates stories into her speech to get her message across and leaves a lasting impression.