American Rhetoric: Movie Speech
"All The King's Men" (1949)
Gubernatorial Candidate Willie Stark's Campaign Address at the Upton Fair Grounds
Chairman: Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce to you that true man of the people, the next Governor of the state, Willie Stark!
Stark: My friends, my friends, I -- I have a speech here. It's a speech about what this state needs. There's no need in my telling you what this state needs. You are the state and you know what you need.
Stark: You over there, look at your pants. Have they got holes in the knees? Listen to your stomach. Did you ever hear it rumble for hunger?
Stark: And you, what about your crops? Did they ever rot in the field because the road was so bad you couldn't get 'em to market?
Stark: And you, what about your kids? Are they growing up ignorant as dirt, ignorant as you 'cause there's no school for 'em?
Stark: Naw, I'm not gonna read you any speech [tosses speech]. But I am gonna tell you a story.
Sadie Burke: Hey, what's he up to?
Stark: It's a funny story so get ready to laugh. Get ready to bust your sides laughin', 'cause it's sure a funny story. It's about a hick, a hick like you, if you please. Yeah, like you. He grew up on the dirt roads and the gully washes of a farm. He knew what it was to get up before dawn and get feed and slop and milk before breakfast, and then set out before sunup and walk six miles to a one-room, slab-sided schoolhouse. Aww, this hick knew what it was to be a hick, all right. He figured if he was gonna get anything done, well, he had to do it himself. So he sat up nights and studied books. He studied law, because he thought he might be able to change things some -- for himself and for folks like him.
Stark: Now, I'm not gonna lie to ya. He didn't start off thinkin' about the hicks and all the wonderful things he was gonna do for 'em. Naw, naw. He started off thinkin' of number one. But something came to him on the way. How he could do nothin' for himself without the help of the people. That's what came to him. And it also came to him with the powerful force of God's own lightning back in his home county when the school building collapsed 'cause it was built of politics' rotten brick. It killed and mangled a dozen kids. But you know that story. The people were his friends because he'd fought that rotten brick. And some of the politicians down in the city, they knew that, so they rode up to his house in a big, fine, shiny car and said as how they wanted him to run for Governor.
Jack: [in the audience] Sadie, he's wonderful, wonderful.
Stark: And he swallowed it. He looked in his heart and he thought, in all humility, how he'd like to try and change things. He was just a country boy who thought that even the plainest, poorest man can be Governor if his fellow citizens find he's got the stuff for the job. All those fellows in the striped pants, they saw that hick and they took him in.
Tiny Duffy: [confronting Willie on the platform] Willie, what are you tryin' to do?
Stark: There he is! There's your Judas Iscariot! Look at him! Lickspittle, nose-wiper -- look at him! Look at him!
Tiny Duffy: Wait a minute....
Stark: Look at him! Look at him! Look at him!
Tiny Duffy: [to the band musicians] Play it! Play anything!
[the band begins playing]
Stark: [shoving Duffy] Joe Harrison's, dummy! Look at him!
Tiny Duffy: That's a lie!
Stark: Look at him!
Tiny Duffy: [signals to his goons standing near the platform] Come get him, boys. Come get him!
Stark: Look at him!
Tiny Duffy: Come get him, boys. C'mon, go get him!
[Sugar Boy moves to intervene against Duffy's goons.]
Stark: [turning to the band playing anything] Now, shut up! Shut up, all of ya. Now, listen to me, you hicks. Yeah, you're hicks too, and they fooled you a thousand times, just like they fooled me. But this time, I'm gonna fool somebody. I'm gonna stay in this race. I'm on my own and I'm out for blood.
[cascading scenes of Stark's stump speaking]
Now listen to me, you hicks! Listen to me, and lift up your eyes and look at God's blessed and unfly-blown truth. And this is the truth. You're a hick, and nobody ever helped a hick but a hick himself!
Stark: Alright, listen to me! Listen to me! I'm the hick they were gonna use to split the hick vote. But I'm standin' right here now on my hind legs. Even a dog can learn to do that. Are you standin' on your hind legs? Have you learned to do that much yet?! Here it is! Here it is you hicks! Nail up anybody who stands in your way! Nail up Joe Harrison! Nail up McMurphy! And if they don't deliver, give me the hammer and I'll do it myself!