American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"Lean on Me" (1989)


Principal Joe Clark Addresses Parents on the Expulsion of Eastside High Students

Audio mp3 delivered by Lynne Thigpen and Morgan Freeman


Ms. Barrett: What happened this morning is an outrage! My boy is no criminal. He and those children belong in school, not back out on the street. Our kids don't deserve this. Some of those children are smart. They're just discouraged about what chances they got out there, what kind of jobs they got waiting for them. Now what kind of chance do they have? He insulted the black football coach. The man's gone crazy. He's declared war on his own people.

Administrator Powers: May I remind you, Ms. Barrett, that Mr. Clark was nice enough to come to this emergency meeting after a very trying day.

Ms. Barrett: That's what he gets paid for.

Administrator Powers: I think we owe him a chance to respond.

Principal Clark: They say, "One bad apple spoils the bunch." Well, what about 300? Rotten to the core! Now, you're right, Mrs. Barrett: This is a war. It's a war to save 2700 other students, most of whom don't have the basic skills to pass a state exam. Now, if you want to help us, fine. Sit down with your kids and make 'em study at night. Go get your families off welfare.

Ms. Barrett: How dare you talk to these people about wel --

Principal Clark: Give our children some pride. Let 'em get their priorities straight. When Dr. Napier came to me offering this job, I saw the lightening flash. I heard the thunder roll. I felt breakers, crashing, swamping my soul.

Barrett: We are not in church, Mr. Clark!

  Principal Clark: I fell down on my knees. And I cried, "My God, why has thou forsaken me?" And the Lord said, "Joe, you're no damn good." No, now I mean this more than you realize. "You're no earthly good at all, unless you take this opportunity and do whatever you have to." And he didn't say, "Joe, be polite." "Do whatever you have to to transform and transmogrify this school into a special place -- where the hearts and souls and minds of the young can rise, where they can grow tall and blossom out from under the shadows of the past; where the minds of the young are set free."

 And I gave my word to God!

And that's why I threw those bastards out!

And that's all I'm gonna say.


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HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.