American Rhetoric: Movie Speech
"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939)
Senator Smith Continues Filibuster
Mr. Smith: [upon reading from the Declaration of Independence] Now, you're not gonna have a country that can make these kind of rules work, if you haven't got men that have learned to tell human rights from a punch in the nose.
Reporter: That's good for a headline.
Mr. Smith: It's a funny thing about men, you know. They all start life being boys. (I wouldn't be a bit surprised if some of these Senators were boys once.) And that's why it seemed like a pretty good idea to me to get boys out of crowded cities and stuffy basements for a couple of months out of the year and build their bodies and minds for a man-sized job, because those boys are gonna be behind these desks some of these days.
And it seemed like a pretty good idea -- getting boys from all over the country, boys of all nationalities and ways of living -- getting them together. Let them find out what makes different people tick the way they do. Because I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a -- a little lookin' out for the other fella, too.
That's pretty important, all that. It's just the blood and bone and sinew of this democracy that some great men handed down to the human race, that's all! But, of course, if you've got to build a dam where that boys camp ought to be, to get some graft to pay off some political army or something, well that's a different thing. Oh, no! If you think I'm going back there and tell those boys in my state and say: "Look, now fellas, forget about it. Forget all this stuff I've been tellin' you about this land you live in -- it's a lot of hooey. This isn't your country. It belongs to a lot of James Taylors." Oh, no! Not me! And anybody here that thinks I'm gonna do that, they've got another thing comin'.
Well, that's all right. I just wanted to find out whether you still had faces.
I-- I -- I'm sorry, gentlemen. I -- I know I'm being disrespectful to this honorable Body. I know that. A guy like me should never be allowed to get in here in the first place. I know that. And I hate to stand here and try your patience like this, but either I'm dead right or I'm crazy!
Senator #1: You wouldn't care to put that to a vote would you, Senator?
Senator #2: Will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. Smith: I yield.
Senator #2: In view of the Gentleman's touching concern for the Senators and in view of the fact that he's been talking for seven and one-half hours and must be very, very tired, would he permit a motion to recess until the morning, at which time he may be better able to continue with his profound babblings?
Mr. Smith: Mr. President, what happens to me in the morning -- I mean about my having this floor to go on with my babblings?
Senate President: If the Senator permits this motion for recess, he won't have the floor in the morning to babble with or anything else, unless he's recognized first by this Chair.
Mr. Smith: Uh, huh. As I was saying gentlemen...I'm either dead right or I'm crazy. And I feel fine.