After an introduction featuring sweet messages about her impact on Hollywood and her influence from Kerry Washington, Brie Larson, Ted Danson and Laverne Cox, her legacy was honored with a montage of her iconic film roles, as well as footage showcasing her legendary activism and life's work as a proponent of peace.
Fonda took the the stage rocking a white suit ensemble and platinum locks, and said she was "so moved to receive this honor."
"We are a community of storytellers, aren't we and in turbulent, crisis-torn times like this, storytelling has always been essential. You see, stories have a way to change our hearts and our minds," Fonda shared. "They can help us see each each other in a new light. To have empathy, to recognize that, for all of our diversity, we are humans first."
Fonda went on to explain how many different films nominated at this year's Golden Globes opened her eyes to new perspectives on race, class, religion, government and ecology in ways she's never appreciated or understood before.
"Stories, they really can change people," she shared. "But there's a story we have been afraid to see and hear about ourselves and this industry. The story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out. A story of who is offered a seat at the table and who is kept out of the room where decisions are made."
"So let's all of us, including all the groups that decide who gets hired and what gets made and who wins awards, let's all of us make an effort to expand that tent," she continued. "So that everyone rises and everyone's story has a chance to be seen and heard."
"I mean, doing this simply means acknowledging what is true, being in step with the emerging diversity that is happening because of all those who marched and fought in the past and those who have picked up the baton today," Fonda explained. "After all, art has always been not just in step with history but has led the way. So let's be leaders!"
Shortly after her speech, many fans resurfaced a video of Fonda's Oscar acceptance speech in 1979, for her role in Coming Home. Fonda translated her speech in American Sign Language in response to the award show not offering closed captioning so that the deaf and hard-of-hearing could watch the ceremony.
After the show, the actress spoke to the press backstage and addressed the honor, as well as how her father, screen star Henry Fonda, would have felt about the award.
"He'd be very proud of me. He won this award!" she said, referring to the 1980 Golden Globes when her dad also accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award. "He'd be very proud of me. And I feel he is here. I can feel his spirit."
She also explained that she wouldn't really be celebrating that night, sharing, "I'm gonna go home and then I'm gonna go right to bed, because I have to get up very early in the morning. So, nothing too exciting. This is excitement enough."
Fonda follows Tom Hanks, who won the award in 2020, and Jeff Bridges, who took it home the year prior.
The seven-time Golden Globe winner's latest honor, which was announced in January, was awarded in response to her "outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment."
"The Hollywood Foreign Press Association takes great pride in bestowing the 2021 Cecil B. DeMille Award to Jane Fonda," HFPA President Ali Sar said in a statement to ET at the time. "For more than five decades, Jane’s breadth of work has been anchored in her unrelenting activism, using her platform to address some of the most important social issues of our time."
"Her undeniable talent has gained her the highest level of recognition, and while her professional life has taken many turns, her unwavering commitment to evoking change has remained," Sar continued. "We are honored to celebrate her achievements at the 2021 Golden Globe Awards."