Political speech to believe in

Last night Sumer and I watched a political speech that we each found electrifying. I found the text of it online and if you’ll permit, I’d like to post it here, along with the video footage. You may have seen it already.

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible – Jew, Gentile – black man – white.

We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there’s room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls – has barricaded the world with hate – has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in man – cries for universal brotherhood – for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world – millions of despairing men, women, and little children – victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say: ‘Do not despair.’ The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you and enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate, only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural!

Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of St Luke, it is written the kingdom of God is within man not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful – to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy – let us use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security.

By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason – a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us unite!

Comments

  1. Look, you can’t joke about Hitler.

  2. Cynthia L. says:

    Chills-inducing. It can’t just be good acting. It seems like he must have had that pent up inside him for a long time–it must have felt really good to let it all out like that. In any case, feels good watching it.

  3. You know, I’m convinced that it takes tremendous maturity to realize that we can’t really tell good from evil.

    I’ve heard people quote scripture, list “works”, list “intentions”, quote prophets, and even describe their own “check list” of attendance and church positions held.

    Tony

  4. A link to the IMDB page of “The Great Dictator”:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032553/

    As near as I can tell (not having seen the movie), the talk is not given by the Hitler character, but by a Jewish barber who through a farcical turn of events is mistaken for the dictator and put up on stage.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    JimD, you’re correct.

    Let me tell you — this is an outstanding movie. One of the best I’ve seen, period. I cannot recommend it enough.

  6. It is a great movie, and one of the great political statements of the twentieth century. Amazingly, this speech is one of the reasons Chaplin had his re-entry permit revoked in 1952 and was not allowed to return to the US after leaving for what should have been a brief trip to Europe.

  7. Thomas Parkin says:

    The real problem is naivete when someone is saying stuff that really strokes our sensibilities.

    For instance, Chaplin was probably a good guy, but he was making contributions to Soviet Russia at a time when they were systematically starving to death millions of their own poorest people. I’m much more impressed by someone with really good political instincts, like Orwell, who can sniff out what underlies the seeming pitch perfect rhetoric.

    Words are easy, and people are easily manipulated when hearing what they want to hear. When it comes to politics I recall that many will come saying lo here is Christ, and lo there, and that we are to believe none of them.

    ~

  8. Steve Evans says:

    Way to deflate me TP. It would be safe to say that Chaplin was not knowingly contributing to the Stalinist death camps?

  9. Just put it at the top of the Netflix queue.

  10. Thomas Parkin says:

    Steve,

    It would be safe to say – hence naivete rather than out and out wicked. Many people supported the Soviets, not because they were bad people but because they so deeply wanted to believe that it was something good.

    Didn’t mean to deflate you. Sorry about that.

    ~

  11. Cynthia L. says:

    #9–me too. Now if it takes a while to arrive I know where it is!! heh.

  12. I’m all for eradicating greed and all that, but it would be hell on the economy.

  13. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 10

    Perhaps that is also the case with many well-meaning Americans (especially LDS) who have supported the GWB presidency these past eight years: not because they are bad people but because they so deeply wanted to believe that it was something good.

    Did Charlie Chaplin ever recognize the error of his ways in supporting the Stalinists? Don’t know much about him, although I’ve enjoyed staying at his beautiful Montecito Inn.

  14. Steve Evans says:

    Permit me to re-inflate: apparently there’s no evidence Chaplin gave any money to Soviet Russia. Unless you’re a McCarthyist.

  15. In America, Steve, that’s McCarthyite.

    Be careful, it may be on the test.

  16. And, while you’re on the topic of McCarthy, my dad tells of a BYU faculty member who, several years into the 1960s, said in public:

    And don’t you forget what they did to our Sen. McCarthy.

    So, you’d probably better be careful on that one too. There may still be those around who still think Johnny Iselin–oops, I mean Joe McCarthy–was God’s gift to the U.S.

    It does add special meaning to the comment I just made elsewhere, where Iago replied to an insult with: “And you–are a senator.”

  17. It is a remarkable film and a remarkable speech. Any politician would be lucky to write and give such a speech today. That Chaplin was fooled by Communism does not diminish the speech’s power, or the movie’s greatness.

  18. ETB did Sen McCarthy’s temple work for him. An old (now dead) friend of mine, a Bircher with heaps and heaps of documents and books all around his house, once showed me photocopies of the temple papers certifying the completed ordinances, evidently disseminated by Steve Benson. They looked legit.

  19. Steve Evans says:

    Hey, everybody deserves a shot, Brad! I wonder who did Chaplin’s.

  20. And what caliber did you have in mind?

  21. Steve Evans says:

    zing!

  22. An interesting quirk of Utah political history is that Utah Republican senator Arthur V. Watkins (an alumnus of BYU and U of Columbia law school) was the chair of the Senate committee that had the responsibility to investigate McCarthy’s activities and to decide if those activities merited censure. During one of the hearings, McCarthy’s temper and combativeness got the best of him, and he berated Watkins personally. Watkins responded by having him expelled from the hearing, to McCarthy’s great surprise. He had become accustomed to everybody backing down.

    That might be one of the earliest documented uses of the ban stick.

  23. Adam Greenwood says:

    I watched it and felt embarrassed for Chaplin because he seemed so sincere. Of course the Holocaust intervened between then and now.

  24. Steve Evans says:

    Adam, why should you feel embarrassed for Chaplin’s sincerity?

  25. Thomas Parkin says:

    Steve,

    It’s not to my point whether or not he was a communist – my point is that he was naive, and that one might perhaps be cautious about jubilation over soaring political rhetoric that champions ‘the People.’ In fact, Chaplin, like many people on the left in his time and even many decades later, sympathized with the USSR out of just that sensibility. There is a long history of naivete on the left that can’t be made to disappear by breathing McCarthy. (I say as someone who categorizes himself as on the left – ameliorative rather than transformative left.)

    Here’s a quote from Chaplin at a dinner given in 1942 (wonder how this would sound side by side his Great Dictator speech): ““In those (Stalinist) purges the Communists did away with their Quislings and Lavals, and if other nations had done the same there would not be the original Quislings and Lavals today. The only people who object to Communism and who use it as a bugaboo are the Nazi agents in this country. . . . I am not a Communist but I am proud to say that I feel pretty pro-Communist.””

    It looks like the suspect donations actually took place in the 1920s, and were through a labor leader rather than made directly to Russians. It is much easier to forgive blinkered sympathy with communism in the 1920s than in the 1940s, when information about the Great Terror was available. And much much easier to forgive those sympathies in the 40s to those lingering into the 60s and 70s.

    ~

  26. Watched this recently. That speech is the best part of the film (which was about 20 minutes too long).

  27. Look mom! It’s change we can believe in…

    oh wait….

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