The American President

All this talk about gun control and what-not has me immediately thinking about the movie The American President. It’s one of my favorite movies ever and I can probably quote most of it.

But what I find the most interesting, that for a movie that came out in 1995, even just 17 years later, his grand speech rings true.

For those who have never seen the movie, in a nutshell, it’s about a widowed President who starts dating an environmental lobbyist and they fall in love. During this time, he’s trying to pass a crime bill that is really unrealistic and pretty much only for appeasing the other politicians, where as the bill that his girlfriend is trying to push is much more realistic.

At the very end, he makes this grand speech that I have always loved because it’s so true. I wish we’d have someone who had the balls to speak up like that and speak so freely about the hard changes that need to happen here.

The speech is long, and the beginning isn’t really in relation to what I’m talking about, but it helps make it feel more complete.

Here’s the speech in its entirety:

“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.

I’ve loved two women in my life. I lost one to cancer, and I lost the other ’cause I was so busy keeping my job I forgot to do my job. Well, that ends right now. Tomorrow morning, the White House is sending a bill to Congress for its consideration. It’s White House Resolution 455, an energy bill requiring a 20 percent reduction of the emission of fossil fuels over the next ten years. It is by far the most aggressive stride ever taken in the fight to reverse the effects of global warming. The other piece of legislation is the crime bill. As of today, it no longer exists. I’m throwing it out. I’m throwing it out writing a law that makes sense. You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. 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. 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.”

Serious changes need to happen, people. Serious. The NRA has gone dark. They’ve removed their Facebook page. They haven’t commented on anything yet.

And through all this, I see protest signs that say things like: “Teachers stand up to gunman, but Congress won’t stand up to the NRA.”

Someone needs to. Someone needs to stand up to Congress and demand that assault rifles go away. That extended clips go away. Someone needs to say that those are only there for one reason – to kill a lot of people really fast. And guess what? Friday that happened. Those children had no less than 3 bullets in them. Some had upwards of 11 bullets. 11 bullets. Why?

“We’ve got serious problems, and we need serious people…”


About Cassie

Two sisters from two misters. What could be more fun?

Posted on December 17, 2012, in Cassie and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I am so with you on this. I love that movie, too. So much of what has happened the last several years has reminded me of that speech – about how citizenship has to be deeper than slogans and symbols – it has to be grasping and arguing the real issues and realities and DOING something about them. Bravo on this post.

  2. Aaron Sorkin had it in for guns in the 90s. After this, he wrote The West Wing and it’s first few years had lots of gun control plots. Charlie was partly hired because his mother had been a cop killed by guns. At that time, Clinton passed the assault weapons ban. Then came 9/11 and Congress let it expire 2004 because, you know, Muslims and terrorists.

  3. I love the reference to the ACLU. How an organization that defends the Bill of Rights can become the target of right-wing “freedom lovers” amazes me. President Sheppard/Aaron Sorkin is right. To be free, you really gotta want it.

  4. Ok, ok, I’ll watch it! And I agree, there is no need for assault riffles.

  5. I love the idea of America being an exercise in advanced citizenship. So true. Can’t wait to go home tonight and watch the last episode of “The Newsroom”.

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