American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946)


Al Stephenson's After Dinner Speech on Collateral and Cornbelt Trust & Loan

Audio mp3 delivered by Fredric March


Milton: Our country must stand today where it has always stood: the citadel of individual initiative, the land of unlimited opportunity for all. It is peculiarly appropriate that we meet here tonight to honor one who has valiantly fought for that freedom. Ladies and gentlemen, we greet our friend, our co-worker, our hero, Al Stephenson. (C'mon, on your feet, Al, on your feet.)

Stephenson: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm very happy to be here. In fact, I'm very happy to be anywhere. In fact, I'm, I'm very happy. (Perhaps it would be a good idea if you just put that bottle right down here in front of me -- save yourself quite a number of trips.)

Milton: [laughing] Good, ole Al.

Stephenson: I'm glad to see you've all pulled through so well. As Mr. Milton so perfectly expressed it, our country stands today where it stands today, wherever that is.  And I'm sure you'll all agree with me if I said that now is the time for all of us to stop all this nonsense, face facts, get down to brass tacks, forget about the war and go fishing. But I'm not gonna say it. I'm just going to sum the whole thing up in one word. My wife doesn't think I'd better sum it up in that one word.

I want to tell you all that the reason for my success as a Sergeant is due primarily to my previous training in the Cornbelt Loan and Trust Company. The knowledge I acquired in the good ol' bank I applied to my problems in the infantry. For instance, one day in Okinawa, a Major comes up to me and he says, "Stephenson, you see that hill?" "Yes sir, I see it." "All right," he said. "You and your platoon will attack said hill and take it." So I said to the Major, "but that operation involves considerable risk. We haven't sufficient collateral." "I am aware of that," said the Major, "but the fact remains that there's the hill and you are the guys who are going to take it." So I said to him, "I'm sorry Major, no collateral, no hill." So we didn't take the hill and we lost the war. I think that little story has considerable significance, but I've forgotten what it is.

And now in conclusion, I'd like to tell you a humorous anecdote. I know several humorous anecdotes, but I can't think of any way to clean them up, so I'll only say this much. I love the Cornbelt Loan and Trust Company. There are some who say that the old bank is suffering from hardening of the arteries and of the heart. I refuse to listen to such radical talk. I say that our bank is alive, it's, it's generous, it's, it's human, and we're going to have such a line of customers seeking and getting small loans that people will think we're gambling with the depositors' money. And we will be. We'll be gambling on the future of this country. I thank you.


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HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.