Meryl Streep for president?
The Oscar-winning actress turned in a barn-burner of a speech Saturday night at a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign, assailing Donald Trump as bellicose and thin-skinned, mounting a rousing defense of LGBTQ freedoms, and bucking up a crowd that might have been otherwise dejected by America’s rightward turn towards conservatism. Streep argued that Trump’s election imperils gay rights, women’s rights, and other civil rights.
“If you think people got mad when they thought the government was coming after their guns, wait until they come and try to take away our happiness,” Streep said to a two-minute long standing ovation.
“We’re not going to go back to the bad old days of ignorance and oppression and hiding who we are,” she added.
As tears welled up and her voice cracked under the strain of the emotion, Streep said, “We owe it to the people who have died for our rights, and who have died before they even got their own.”
Streep, who received the gay rights organization’s Ally for Equality Award, said that critics of the new president have one thing to be grateful for.
“If we live through this precarious moment,” she said. “If [Trump’s] catastrophic instinct to retaliate doesn’t lead us to nuclear winter, we will have much to thank our current leader for. He will have woken us up to how fragile freedom is.”
At this year’s Golden Globes ceremony, Streep, while accepting a lifetime achievement award, delivered a blistering condemnation of Trump’s imitation of a reporter with disabilities. Without naming the president, Streep said that moment reminded her that “disrespect invites disrespect.” Trump later lashed out on Twitter, calling Streep an overrated actress. Once again, the two found common-ground.
“I am the most overrated and most over-decorated and currently — currently — I am the most over-berated actor…of my generation,” Streep said at the HRC dinner.
The dinner also honored comedian Seth Meyers and the cast and filmmaking team behind “Moonlight.”
Streep used her time at the dais to reflect on gay and transgender teachers who helped foster her love of the arts and of theater. At one point, she broke in song to treat the audience at the New York City gala to a rendition of the Emma Lazarus sonnet that lies at the base of the statue of liberty, saying the words were taught to her by a transgender teacher during a field trip.
Streep closed her speech with a call to arms for the people who may feel dispossessed and upset over Trump’s election.
“We have the right to live our lives, with God or without, as we choose,” Streep said. “There is a prohibition against the establishment of a state religion in our constitution, and we have the right to choose with whom we live, whom we love, and who and what gets to interfere with our bodies. As Americans, men, women, people, gay, straight, LGBTG. All of us have the human right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”