The Greatest Speech Ever Made…

Who would have thought that the greatest speech the world has ever heard would come from a comedy actor that was famous for silent films?

Back in 1940 Sir Charles (Charlie) Spencer Chaplin not only starred in his first talking film but also wrote and directed it. “The Great Dictator” was filmed in America (one year before the US entry into World War II) and our champion plays Adenoid Hynkel, Dictator of Tomainia – a not-so-subtle mockery of Adolf Hitler. While the thrice academy nominated film is clearly a comedy (with characters such as Benzino Napaloni – Dictator of Bacteria) the ending is seriously thought-provoking. The film closes with ‘Adenoid Hynkel’ addressing the audience with a poignant monologue that is as relevant today as it was those 71 years ago.

Image from 'The Great Dictator', Charlie Chaplin

While I have included a transcript of the speech beneath the video I would seriously recommend that you watch it. His voice, the music and the videos together are perfection (and almost guaranteed to put a lump in your throat).

It makes me wonder how many great and forward-thinking minds need to come and go before we listen. As early as 1798 Thomas Malthus developed the Malthusian Trap – a theory that if population continues to soar eventually humankind’s population will be too heavy for the world’s agricultural capacities. In 1968 Paul Ehrlich predicted mass starvation of people in the seventies and eighties. The iconic book ‘Silver Spring’ was written by Rachel Carson in 1962 where she challenged the policies used by agricultural industries and the government – in particular the health issues associated with such heavy-handed use of pesticides. Even in Ancient times, Pythagoras speaks of the importance of animal rights;

“As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower livings beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”

It would be great if instead of marveling at their accuracy twenty… forty… seventy… a hundred(!) years down the track we listen and make a change then and there before more is lost – be it lives, places, liberties or time.

I hope you enjoy the greatest speech ever made…

“I’m sorry but I don’t want to be an Emperor, that’s not my business.
I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone.
I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white.
We all want to help one another,
Human beings are like that.
We all want to live by each other’s happiness
Not by each other’s misery.
We don’t want to hate and despise one another.

In this world there is room for everyone
And the earth is rich and can provide for everyone.
The way of life can be free and beautiful.
But we have lost the way.
Greed has poisoned men’s souls,
Has barricaded the world with hate;
Has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in;
Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.
Our knowledge has made us cynical,
Our cleverness hard and unkind.
We think too much and feel too little:
More than machinery we need humanity;
More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness.
Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together.
The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men,
Cries out for universal brotherhood,
For the unity of us all.
Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world,
Millions of despairing men, women and little children,
Victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.
To those who can hear me I say “Do not despair”.
The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed,
The bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress:
The hate of men will pass and dictators die
And the power they took from the people
Will return to the people and so long as men die [now]
Liberty will never perish…

Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes,
Men who despise you and enslave you,
Who regiment your lives,
Tell you what to do,
What to think and what to feel!
Who drill you,
Diet you,
Treat you as cattle,
As cannon fodder.
Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men,
Machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts.
You are not machines.
You are not cattle.
You are men.
You have the love of humanity in your hearts.
You don’t hate, only the unloved hate.
Only the unloved and the unnatural.

Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery,
Fight for liberty.
In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written:
“The kingdom of God is within man”
Not one man, nor a group of men, but in all men; in you, the people.
You the people have the power,
The power to create machines,
The power to create happiness.
You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful
To make this life a wonderful adventure.
Then in the name of democracy let’s use that power!
Let us all unite!

Let us fight for a new world,
A decent world that will give men a chance to work,
That will give you the future and old age and security.
By the promise of these things brutes have risen to power
But they lie.
They do not fulfill their promise!
They never will!
Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people.
Now let us fight to fulfill that promise!
Let us fight to free the world!
To do away with national barriers!
Do away with greed, with hate and intolerance!
Let us fight for a world of reason!
A world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness!
Soldiers! In the name of democracy…

Let us all unite!”

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