American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"The Great Debaters" (2007)


Wiley College vs. Paul Quinn College

Resolved: Unemployment Relief Should Be Ended When The Depression Ends

Audio mp3 delivered by Voltaire Sterling, Stephen Rider, Jermaine Williams, & Nate Parker

First Paul Quinn Debater, First Affirmative: Resolved: Unemployment relief should be ended when the depression ends. I traveled back in history to 1536, when the first Poor laws of England were mandated. In those days the dole -- or "welfare," as we call it -- was funded by voluntary contributions. But as time passed, the English devised the Allowance System, the first unemployment relief -- only now it was paid with involuntary contributions, more commonly known as taxes. The Allowance System was a disaster: The only real unemployment relief is to give a man a job; but to do that you have to give the economy life, not tax it to death.


Hamilton Burgess, First Negative: When capitalism was young, the old puritanical concept of duty was: "He who does not work shall not eat." Now that made sense when there was more work than men willing to do it. But those days are gone. Now, there are millions who want to work but find themselves standing in bread lines. Now, should they not eat because there are no jobs? People today, we need a new concept of duty: the right of the individual to demand from society just as much as he gives to society.


Second Paul Quinn Debater, Second Affirmative: We clutch at anything that even looks like a solution: sixty million dollars a month for public relief -- pay it out if it will sweep the hobos off the streets. One-seventh of the population of the United States on welfare: fine, as long as it ends our misery. A nation as desperate as this is a danger to itself.


Henry Rowe, Second Affirmative: Once, a Roman General brought peace to a rebellious province -- by killing all its citizens. Even his fellow Romans were shocked. One of them wrote, [Ubi] solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant" -- which means, "They create desolation and call it peace." Now, for all their facts and figures, the Paul Quinn debaters would also create desolation and call it peace: They would allow the unemployed to die so the economy can live.

[Rowe departs from prepared remarks]

A brilliant young woman I know was asked once to support her argument in favor of social welfare. She named the most powerful source imaginable: the look in a mother's face when she can not feed her children. Can you look that hungry child in the eyes, see the blood on his feet from walking barefoot in the cotton fields? Or do you ask his baby sister with her belly swollen from hunger if she cares about her daddy's work ethic?

1930 Wiley College Debate Team

Derived from II Thessalonians 3:10

Literally: "Where they create a desert, they call it peace"

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HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.