American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"Lean on Me" (1989)


Principal Joe Clark Addresses Students: 'Welcome to the New Eastside High'

Audio AR-XE mp3 delivered by Morgan Freeman


Principal Clark: Alright people settle down, now. You people get down off the seats. Settle down, boys and girls, settle down. May I have your attention? Quiet! Quiet down! Take your seats! You people sit down. Sit down. Quiet down.

I am your new principal. My name is Joe Clark. I want you to be quiet! I want you to listen! From here out, there will be no smoking in this school! All of you who are smoking, put out your cigarettes on the soles of your shoes; put the butts in your pockets! Now!


You there -- you.

Put out your cigarette.

I'm going to ask the people up on the stage to open with our school song...Mr. Rollin....


Students: Hahaha. You believe this guy?

[General banter, mock singing, chaos.]

Principal Clark: Alright, that's enough, Mr. Rollin, that's enough.



Principal Clark: I want all of you to take a good look at these people on the risers behind me.

These people have been here up to five years and done absolutely nothing. These people are drug dealers and drug users.

They have taken up space.

They have disrupted the school.

They have harassed your teachers.

And they have intimated you.

Well, times are about to change. You will not be bothered in Joe Clark's school.

Kaneesha Carter: Yeah!!


Principal Clark: These people are incorrigible. And since none of them could graduate anyway, you are all expurgated.

You are dismissed! You are out of here forever! I wish you well.

Mr. Wright....



Principal Clark: Next time it may be you. If you do no better than they did, next time it will be you. They said this school was dead, like the cemetery it's built on.

But we call our Eastside teams "ghosts," don't we? And what are ghosts? Ghosts are spirits that rise from the dead!

I want you to be my ghosts. You are going to lead our resurrection by defying the expectation that all of us are doomed to failure.

My motto is simple: If you do not succeed in life, I don't want you to blame your parents. I don't want you to blame the white man! I want you to blame yourselves! The responsibility is yours!!

In two weeks we have a practice exam -- and a minimum basic skills test on April 13th. That's a hundred and ten school days from now. But it's not just about those test scores. If you do not have these basic skills, you will find yourselves locked out! Locked out of that American Dream that you see advertised on TV -- that they tell you is so easy to get.

You are here for one reason -- one reason only: to learn, to work for what you want. The alternative is to waste your time and to fall into the trap of crime, drugs, and death. Does everyone understand that? Do all of you understand me?!

Then welcome to the new Eastside High!

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HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.