American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"The Browning Version" (1951)


Andrew Crocker-Harris Confesses His Failures As A Teacher


Crocker-Harris: A valedictory address, as those of you who have read your Plato's Apology will remember, can be of inordinate length, but as I, unhappily, am not Socrates, and as I have often believed that Vita longa, ars brevis, is a more suitable apothegm than the one in more general use, and in connection with the word brevitas, it is, I think, of some small interest -- it is, I think, of some small interest --

  You must excuse me. I have prepared a speech, but I find now that I have nothing to say, or rather I have three very small words, but they are most deeply felt. They are these: I am sorry. I am sorry because I have failed to give you what you have the right to demand of me as your teacher: sympathy, encouragement, and humanity. I'm sorry because I have deserved the nickname of "Himmler" and because by so doing I have degraded the noblest calling that a man can follow -- the care and molding of the young.

  I claim no excuses. When I came here I knew what I had to do, and I have not done it. I have failed, and miserably failed. I can only hope that you and the countless others who have gone before will find it in your hearts to forgive me for having let you down. I shall not find it so easy to forgive myself.

That is all. Good bye.

"Life is long, art is brief." A riff on a famous quotation from Hippocrates "ars longa, vita brevis," ("art is long, life is brief.") Hippocrates' original phrase was popularized by Longfellow in a poem called "Psalm of Life." -- Paul Streufert, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Tyler.

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