Kerry Washington is calling for change — and she says it starts with the children.
The actress, 40, delivered a powerful and fiery speech as she took home the Inspiration Award at the GLSEN Respect Awards on Friday night, in which she called out President Donald Trump and current political leaders for preaching “division and discrimination.”
“Sometimes I feel as though we are living through a horrific dream. It is a communal nightmare,” she said. “The flames of terror and exclusion are being ignited by some of our most powerful leaders. These people who have been entrusted with the protection of our rights, the rights of all of us, of we the people, have chosen instead of traffic in hate. We’ve gone from a White House lit in all the colors of pride, to a White House that literally preaches division and discrimination.”
Washington said her perspective on the future changed after she had kids, and she now realizes the immense impact that the current young generation can and will have.
“Children are not born to be molded and perfected by their parents. Children are born to us because we need to grow,” she said. “You are inspiring all of us to make the changes we need to make in order for the world to be a world that is deserving of your beauty, and your power, and your possibility.”
She continued: “You are collectively helping our country to become a more perfect union, and not just for some of us, but for all of us.”
She also called out the importance of creating a society a that embraces and encourages the LGBT community.
“By creating school environments that embrace clear inclusivity, understanding, and acceptance, you not only empower LGBTQ students, you help all students,” she said, speaking to the future generations. “When you ensure the protection of one, you make space for all. You transform your schools into places where everyone belongs, where everyone is free to learn, and where everyone can feel loved. Through your boldness, and your bravery, you’re making it so that every young person in America has the change to love and be loved.”
Washington concluded her speech with a powerful call to action. She stressed the importance of setting the right example for future generations to follow.
RELATED VIDEO: Kerry Washington Stands up for Same-Sex Rights in Fiery Speech
“We need to make sure that we don’t get in the way, but that we help them clear the way. Because like all great leaders, these young people are human, and they will at times forget their beauty and their power,” she said. “So our job is not only to support them but to remind them. We must remind them. We do that by example, and we do that by encouragement. We must defend and protect their hearts and their hard work always. They are our leaders.”
You are our truest leaders. You point us out of this nightmare, and toward that more perfect union,” she continued. “And with your leadership, tonight more than ever before, I know that we will get there. So we look to you, and we love you, and we are grateful.”
RELATED VIDEO: PEOPLE Writer Natasha Stoynoff Breaks Silence, Accuses Donald Trump of Sexual Assault
The actress was presented the award by her Scandal costar Tony Goldwyn.
The GLSEN Respect Awards honor the work of students, educators, individuals and corporations who have made a significant impact on the lives of the LGBTQ youth and community.
Along with Washington, Zendaya Coleman also took home the Gamechanger award.