American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"Lean on Me" (1989)

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Principal Joe Clark Addresses Parents on the Expulsion of East Side High Students

Audio mp3 delivered by Morgan Freeman

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.

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

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!

  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.