American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"Lean on Me" (1989)


Principal Joe Clark Addresses his Staff for the First Time

Audio mp3 delivered by Morgan Freeman


Mr. O'Malley: We want to welcome Mr. Clark to Eastside -- we've heard so much about you -- and tell you what we've done in anticipation of your arrival. Miss Levias, your other Vice Principal, and I have appointed an executive committee to oversee certain areas where we have noted a need for improvement. Mr. Zorella, for example --

Principal Clark: You may sit down, Mr. O'Malley. You think you can run this school? If you could, then I wouldn't be here, would I. No one talks in my meetings. No one! You take out your pencils and write. I want the names of every hoodlum, drug dealer, and miscreant who's done nothin' but take this place apart on my desk by noon today. Reverend Slappy?

Reverend Slappy: Yes, sir?

Principal Clark: You are now the Chief Custodian, Reverend Slappy. You will scour this building clean. Graffiti goes up, it's off the next day. Is that clear?

Reverend Slappy: Yes, sir, the very next day.

Principal Clark: Detention students can help you. Let them scrub this place for awhile. And tear down those cages in the cafeteria. You treat them like animals, that's exactly how they'll behave. This is my new Dean of Security, Mr. William Wright. He will be my Avenging Angel, as you teachers reclaim the halls. This is an institution of learning ladies and gentlemen. If you can't control it, how can you teach?! Discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm! Mr. Zorella --

Mr. Zorella: Yes, sir.

Principal Clark: Mr. Zorella, you are now my new Head Football Coach. Mr. Darnell. Stand up, Mr. Darnell. Mr. Darnell will be your assistant. You know why you're being demoted, Mr. Darnell? Because I'm sick and tired of our football team getting pushed all over the field. Thank you. Sit down. I want precision. I want a weight program. And if you don't like it Mr. Darnell, you can quit. Same goes for the rest of you. You tried it your way for years. And your students can't even get past the Minimum Basic Skills Test. That means they can hardly read!! They've given me less than one year, one school year to turn this place around, to get those test scores up, so the State will not take us over to perform the tasks which you have failed to do! To educate our children!! Forget about the way it used to be. This is not a damn democracy. We are in a state of emergency and my word is law. There's only one boss in this place, and that's me -- the "HNIC". Are there any questions?...

Mr. Wright....

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