American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"Lean on Me" (1989)

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Principal Joe Clark Addresses East Side High Students Prior to Taking the Basic Skills Test

Audio mp3 delivered by Morgan Freeman

Clark: Alright people, here we are. This is the day. In one hour, you are going to take an exam administered by the State to test your basic skills and the quality of education at East Side High. And I want to tell you what the people out there are saying about you and what they think about your chances. They say you are inferior. You are just a bunch of n-----s and spics and poor white trash! Education is wasted on you. You cannot learn. You're lost! I mean all of ya.

I want all the white students to stand up. All my white students, stand up, right now. Stand up. C'mon, all my white students, stand up. Stand up. That's it. C'mon, stand up. These are my white children. And they're the same as all of you. They've got no place to go. If they had, they would have abandoned us a long time ago like everybody else did, but they couldn't; so here they are at East Side High, just like the rest of us.  You can sit down. [to the white students]

Are you getting my point, people?

Students: Yeah.

Clark: Is it beginning to sink in?

Students: Yeah!

Clark: We sink. We swim. We rise. We fall. We meet our fate together!

Now, it took the help of a good, good friend make me know and understand that.

And I do understand it, and I'm grateful. I'm eternally grateful. And now I've got a message for those people out there who've abandoned you and written you off! Can you hear me?! Can you hear me?!! Good!

You are NOT inferior!

Your grades may be.

Your school may have been.

But you can turn that around and make liars out of those bastards in exactly one hour when you take that test and pass it and win!

So, here's what I want you to do. When you find your mind's wandering, I want you to knuckle back down and concentrate -- concentrate! Remember what's at stake!

And show them what East Side High is all about: a spirit that will not die!

 

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HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.