“Celebrate That In Your Classrooms….”

One of my favorite “I-wish-it-was-a-real-speech-by-a-real-politician” movie scenes is from The American President when Michael Douglas aka President Andrew Shepherd finally grows a pair and comes out swinging against his opponents and their smear tactics against him and his girlfriend (Annette Benning). The relevant part of the speech for today’s topic is fairly early on:

America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.

Here’s our opportunity.

I read today where a young man in Colorado was suspended for wearing a t-shirt reading, “Obama, A Terrorist’s Best Friend” to school to “on a day when students were asked to show their patriotism by wearing red, white and blue, according to MyFOXColorado.com.”

As usual in such cases, the school district has tried to hide behind the “disruption of the learning environment” argument, but as usual the argument rings hollow to me.  Would they have suspended him for wearing a t-shirt reading “Obama, Inexperienced and Unprepared”?  How about a anti-Republican “Lying Liars” t-shirt?

I’m with Andrew Shepherd on such issues; this is one of the things that makes us special as a society, our willingness to give room for a wide, wide spectrum of voices to be heard.  Especially in our schools.  Even for opinions as offensive to me as this one, espoused by people with whom I have little in common.

– Austin

PS – The whole Andrew Shepherd speech runs 5 minutes and is well worth watching for a reminder of how far short of stirring rhetoric the current conversation falls (gosh, if only an actor would run for president…wait…didn’t we do that?).  And, as a challenge, watch the speech and see if you can detect an echo of it in one of the major speeches delivered in the last month.  As I listened to this particular line in the speech in question, I thought, “That sounds like…”

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6 thoughts on ““Celebrate That In Your Classrooms….”

  1. Dennis Lang says:

    That speech is still stirring. My mother never misses this flick when it’s on cable. It’s been said Obama picked up on a few of Aaron Sorkin’s better lines in his speeches.

  2. You all probably see this coming from your local Avowed Libertarian, but I can’t help but laugh at that school situation. There’s no logical defense for that.

    Do school administrators not see this media shitstorm coming when they make these decisions?

  3. Dennis Lang says:

    As a matter of fact, look at the way this scene is edited, those cut-aways of the flummoxed staffers at the outset, the way it slowly builds, everything coalescing–the press corps won over–brilliantly at the conclusion, the cadence of the speech itself, building. What? Of course, this looks like a J. Loveland Production.

  4. Jon Austin says:

    Loveland’s finely tuned ear does indeed hear the only flat spot in faux President Shepherd’s speech…

    “We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family, and American values and character, and you wave an old photo of the President’s girlfriend and you scream about patriotism. You tell them she’s to blame for their lot in life.”

    What President Shepherd meant to say was:

    “We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a cynical and cruel way to win an election, by playing on the worries of Americans who have seen their standard of living decline, their retirements jeopardized and their jobs shipped overseas. You prey on the concerns of men and women who remember with longing an easier time, a calmer world and you talk to them about family, and American values and character, and you wave an old photo of the President’s girlfriend and you scream about patriotism. You tell them she’s to blame for their lot in life. “

    If only Sorkin had called me to be a script doctor back in 1995, I could be charging for this stuff today.

    – Austin

    PS – This wasn’t, however, the line I was thinking of. I was struck by the similarity of this:

    “If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to serve as the next commander-in-chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.”

    …from Senator Obama’s acceptance speech with:

    “And if you want to talk about character, Bob, you’d better come at me with more than a burning flag and a membership card. If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I’ll show up.”

    …from Shepherd’s.

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