Thursday, September 13, 2007

Speechifying About A City on a Hill

Since it is a New Year and the memory of the memory of the 11th of September is still fresh I tried to think of a speech that I had that emphasized coming together and aspiring to greatness as one, forgiving all slights, forgetting all differences, and all that jazz. I came upon Al Pacino's speech from the movie City Hall, given as a eulogy for a murdered boy...

I think I liked the speech so much because it is powerful and hopeful and passionate but also because it sort of spoke to that American idea of being an example and of being great, harkening back to the City upon a Hill section of Winthrop's A Model of Christian Charity, to JFK to Reagan's 1974 speech to the CPAC or his televised farewell address, there lies that common thread, that same chord. Except without those pesky conservative and christian ideas which turn some people off.
Anyway here's the speech:

Mayor Pappas: (Thank you, Reverend.) I was warned not to come here. I was warned. They warned me, "Don't stand behind that coffin." But why should I heed such a warning when a heartbeat is silent and a child lies dead? "Don't stand behind" this coffin. That boy was as pure and as innocent as the driven snow. But I must stand here, because I have not given you what you should have. Until we can walk abroad and recreate ourselves, until we can stroll along the streets like boulevards, congregate in parks free from fear, our families mingling, our children laughing, our hearts joined -- until that day we have no city. You can label me a failure until that day.

The first and perhaps only great mayor was Greek. He was Pericles of Athens, and he lived some 2500 years ago, and he said, "All things good of this earth flow into the City because of the City's greatness." Well, we were great once. Can we not be great again? Now, I put that question to James Bone, and there's only silence. Yet, could not something pass from this sweet youth to me? Could he not empower me to find in myself the strength to have the knowledge to summon up the courage to accomplish this seemingly insurmountable task of making a city livable? Just livable.

There was a palace that was a city. It was a palace! It was a palace and it can be a palace again! A palace in which there is no king or queen or dukes or earls or princes, but subjects all -- subjects beholden to each other, to make a better place to live. Is that too much to ask? Are we asking too much for this? Is it beyond our reach?! Because if it is, then we are nothing but sheep being herded to the final slaughterhouse! I will not go down that way!! I choose to fight back!!! I choose to rise, not fall! I choose to live, not die!! And I know, I know that what's within me is also within you!

That's why I ask you now to join me. Join me, rise up with me; rise up on the wings of this slain angel. We'll rebuild on the soul of this little warrior. We will pick up his standard and raise it high! Carry it forward until this city -- your city -- our city -- his city -- is a palace of God! Is a palace of God!

I am with you, little James.

I am you.

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