Meryl Streep's poignant speech on civil rights in the age of Trump is a must-read.

On Feb. 11, 2017, Meryl Streep accepted the Ally for Equality Award given by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's leading LGBTQ rights group.

The honor came about a month after her rousing speech at the Golden Globes accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award, when she took on Trumpism (without ever once saying the president's name), celebrated an open and fair press, and defended immigrants everywhere.

Even with the bar held so high, though, Streep's remarks at the HRC gala didn't disappoint.


Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images.

Streep's speech touched on several key points that put this moment in LGBTQ history clearly into perspective, inspiring us to keep pushing onward:

1. First, Streep reflected on the progress we've made so far, with a story from her own childhood about a transgender teacher who changed her life — and the country.

"When I was a young girl growing up in middle-class New Jersey, my entire artistic life was curated by people who lived in the straightjacket of conformist suburban life," she said. "In the late '50s and early '60s, in my neighborhood, all the houses were the same size, in the developments they were the same style, and in school the goal was to put pennies in your loafers, to look alike and act alike. Standing out, being different was like drawing a target on your forehead. You had to have a special kind of courage to do it."

The Gay Pride Parade marches on in New York City outside the Stonewall Inn — the birthplace of the LGBTQ rights movement. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

"Some of my teachers were obliged to live their whole lives hidden, covertly," Streep said, referencing her sixth- and seventh-grade music teacher Paula Grossman, who transitioned later in life, as "one of the bravest people [she] knew." (Streep's choice to refer to her former teacher by her deadname, however, was a disappointing moment in an otherwise excellent speech.)

As Streep pointed out, Grossman had been fired for being transgender and fought the decision for seven years in a case that eventually made it to the Supreme Court.

"She was a garrulous, cantankerous, terrific teacher, and she never taught again. But her case set the stage for many discrimination cases that followed."

2. Streep slammed the president's disregard for governing norms and human rights — by thanking him and his most voracious supporters for the reminder that we can't take progress for granted.

"Amazingly, and, in terms of human history, blazingly fast, culture seemed to have shifted," Streep said, noting how the 20th century brought up an unprecedented fight for equality among women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and more.

"We should not be surprised that fundamentalists, of every stripe, are exercised and fuming. We should not be surprised that these profound changes come at a steeper cost than we originally thought. We should not be surprised that not everyone is actually cool with it."

Thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2017, the day after Trump's inauguration, to protest his political agenda. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

"If we live through this precarious moment, if his catastrophic instinct to retaliate doesn’t lead us to nuclear winter, we will have much to thank our current leader for," she said. "[Donald Trump] will have woken us up to how fragile freedom is. His whisperers will have alerted us to potential flaws in the balance of power in government. To how we have relied on the goodwill and selflessness of most previous occupants of the Oval Office. How quaint notions of custom, honor and duty compelled them to adhere to certain practices of transparency and responsibility. To how it all can be ignored."

3. And Streep ended her speech with a rallying cry, encouraging all of us to double down on our efforts to keep the fight for progress alive and honor those who came before us.

"Here we are in 2017, the year the browser seems to have gone down. In danger of losing much of our information, we seem to be reverting to factory settings," Streep said. "But we are not going to go back to the bad old days of ignorance and harassment, oppression and hiding who we are. Because we owe it to the people who have died for our rights — and who died before they got their own."

A demonstrator holds a photo of the slain Harvey Milk, an LGBTQ rights pioneer who became the first out gay person to be elected to public office in California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

"We owe it to the pioneers of the LGBTQ movement, like Paula Grossman, and to the people on the front lines of all civil-rights movements, not to let them down."

"The good thing about being older is that you do get to mark the progress of decades," Streep concluded. "You can honestly say, 'Things are better now.'"

"But what is the famous quote? 'The price of liberty is eternal vigilance?'" she asked rhetorically. "Everybody thinks that was Jefferson, but it was an Irishman, John Philpot Curran, don't 'cha know, who also said: 'Evil prospers when good men do nothing.'"

Photo by Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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