[On July 30th, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine on its way back from delivering the components of the atomic bombs. That wartime tragedy became the basis for one of the great speeches in American film history, so this week I’ll AmericanStudy that monologue and four other knockout cinematic orations!]
On three of the many phenomenal lines from one of the most inspiring, AmericanStudying movie speeches of all time:
1) “You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and hand guns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I'm gonna convince Americans that I'm right, and I'm gonna get the guns”: My feelings about both guns and their Constitutionality are well documented, so mainly I just wanted to add here that I would really, really love to hear a president put it this succinctly and potently. We did get rid of assault weapons for a while, and it worked in precisely this way; doing so again would at least be a significant step in the right direction.
2) “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”: Make America Great Again, anybody? Perhaps my only revision to this whole speech would be to add the word “imagined” before “easier,” because that time being conjured up never existed. That why I call this form of patriotism, one of the four in my forthcoming book, mythic.
3) “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. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free”: And speaking of my patriotism book (which is also named for a line in one of our anthem songs, Of Thee I Sing), I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a clearer vision of what I call (there and elsewhere) critical patriotism than the final lines of this quote. Word, President Andrew Shepherd. Word.
July Recap this weekend,
PS. What do you think? Other movie speeches you’d highlight?