Meryl Streep responds to Donald Trump calling her 'over-rated'

Meryl Streep likes to load her dishwasher. She likes to sit quietly and read. She likes to garden. Most of all, as she told the audience at the Human Rights Campaign Greater New York Gala on Saturday night, she likes to "stay the fuck home." But the actress, who, along with late-night host Seth Meyers, was the recipient of the H.R.C. Ally for Equality Award, left the house to stand in support of her L.G.B.T.Q. friends in the Trump era. She said all of this during her speech without even mentioning the president's name.

The legendary actress, who previously delivered a fiery takedown of Donald Trump at the Golden Globes (also without saying his name), told attendees at the H.R.C. gala that in the end, the current administration could serve as a valuable wake-up call.

"If we live through this precarious moment . . . if his catastrophic instinct to retaliate doesn't lead us to nuclear winter, we have much to thank this president for, because he will have woken us up to how fragile freedom really is," she said to the crowd gathered at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

Streep experienced Trump's famously thin skin after her Globes oration in January when he tweeted that the actress was "over-rated." During his introduction of Streep Saturday night, filmmaker and historian Ken Burns ensured the audience that Streep is "someone who we can all say, without a bit of artifice or exaggeration, is the greatest person at her art alive."

The actress and honoree also had a response for Trump's claim. "Yes, I am the most overrated, over-decorated, and currently, over-berated actress . . . of my generation," she joked. "But that is why you invited me here! Right?"

Streep began her speech in memory of her junior high theater teacher—one of the first transgender people in the United States to transition. She said she owed her career to countless L.G.B.T.Q. people, naming directors, teachers, and friends among them. Her work, which includes the 2003 HBO miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner's Angels in America and 2002's The Hours, has often touched on queer themes. Over the years, she has earned the admiration of the community, even inspiring an annual drag show, Streeptease.

Streep told the audience she didn't know what she had done to deserve such an honor, except to "kiss Allison Janney take, after take, after take."

Though she touched on her memorable films in her remarks, the actress kept returning to the early influences of L.G.B.T.Q. mentors in her life. She remembered a trip to the Statue of Liberty with her junior-high theater teacher where she first read Emma Lazarus's sonnet, "The New Colussus," which sits engraved at the statue's pedestal. Before a captivated audience, Streep put Lazarus's words to melody: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

Meryl Streep likes to stay home. She likes to load the dishwasher. But while she does, she concluded, she looks out of her Manhattan window at that symbolic statue on the water, and she remembers why, every day, she has to walk out her door and be an ally for the people who need her.

"It's terrifying to put the target on your forehead, and it sets you up for all sorts of attacks and armies of brownshirts and bots and worse," Streep said. "And the only way you can do it is to feel you have to. You have to. You don't have an option. You have to."