The media mogul became the first African American woman to win the award, and she used her acceptance speech to raise awareness of sexual harassment and assault. While that was the theme of the evening, with most celebrities wearing black in solidarity with the Time's Up movement and speaking about the issues, Winfrey's rousing message celebrated the people who've fought for women and marked the beginning of a new era.
Winfrey, who has long been a champion of women and is no stranger to public speaking, used her platform expertly. Here's why she nailed every lesson you ever needed to know about public speaking.
1. She took note of the audience.
Winfrey was careful to take note of everyone listening--not just the celebrities in the room, but also the people watching at home.
"So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They're the women whose names we'll never know."
2. She shared a personal story to emphasize her message.
Winfrey described watching the Oscars in 1964 as Sidney Poitier (who also won the Cecil B. DeMille Award, in 1982) became the first African American to win an Academy Award and how that changed history.
She noted that a new generation of young women may experience the same feeling watching her:
"It is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award. It is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them and also with the incredible men and women who have inspired me, who challenged me, who sustained me, and made my journey to this stage possible."
3. Her words sparked emotions that were compelling.
In her speech, Winfrey also highlighted the life of Recy Taylor, an African American woman who was abducted and raped by six white men in 1944. Taylor didn't get the justice she deserved and died less than two weeks ago.
"She lived, as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men," she said, and her words sparked emotions of anger and, at the same time, the motivation to fight for change. Winfrey vowed to keep telling the stories of women and men, and specifically the courage they've embodied during life's most trying times.
4. She ended on a positive note that united the crowd.
"So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon," Winfrey said as she closed her speech. And, while she touted the bravery of many women, she made sure not to exclude the men in the room:
"When that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men are fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say 'Me Too' again."