12/13/2006

The Movie 'American President': Human Rights Conference

American President is a great movie (that it has impressive dialogue is not suprising considering Aaron Sorkin is one of the writers).

In a defining moment of the movie, President Shephard gives a long speech at a press conference. Obviously, a lot could be made of this speech in regards to current politics (especially fear mongering and character attacks). Attached below is the entire speech.

I started thinking about this speech earlier in the week while attending the Rabbis for Human Rights-NA Conference. More than one speaker remarked that the name of the organization should be redunadant--all rabbis should be in favor of human rights. Instead of 150 rabbis, the conference should have been overflowing with every available rabbi in North America. Although I can think of a few reasons why this may be the case, it is an important question to consider.

Here is the reworked quote: For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of Rabbis for Human Rights North America. But the more important question is why aren't you, [insert name of Rabbi here]? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend human rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a rabbi, his [or her] community's most powerful spokesman and religious leader, choose to reject upholding the human rights? If you can answer that question, folks, then you're smarter than I am, because I didn't understand it until a few hours ago. Judaism and human rights are not easy. They are advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause they're gonna put up a fight.

Shalom,
Rabbi Bruce

The Movie Quote:
For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being president of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I've been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character. For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren't you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party's most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, folks, then you're smarter than I am, because I didn't understand it until a few hours ago. America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You 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 can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free". I've known Bob Rumson for years, and I've been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn't get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem is that he can't sell it! 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-aged, 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 wave an old photo of the President's girlfriend and you scream about patriotism and you tell them, she's to blame for their lot in life, and you go on television and you call her a whore. Sydney Ellen Wade has done nothing to you, Bob. She has done nothing but put herself through school, represent the interests of public school teachers, and lobby for the safety of our natural resources. You want a character debate, Bob? You better stick with me, 'cause Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league. . . . We've got serious problems, and we need serious people, 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. This is a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up. My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I *am* the President.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Well said.