Inspiration

by Tom Swift

Leonna Barrett: “What happened this morning is an outrage! My boy’s no criminal! He and those children belong in school, not back out on the streets! Our kids don’t deserve this! Some of those children are smart. They’re just discouraged what chances they got out there, what kind of jobs they got waiting for them. What chance do they have now? He insulted the black football coach! The man’s gone crazy! He’s declared war on his own people!”

Mrs. Arthur: “May I remind you, Miss Barrett, that Mr. Clark was nice enough to come to this emergency meeting after a very trying day?”

Barrett: “That’s what he gets paid for!”

Arthur: “I think we owe him a chance to respond.”

[the audience claps in agreement]

Joe Clark: [getting up, standing before the group] “They say one bad apple spoils the bunch.”

[shouts of protest]

Clark: “But what about 300? Rotten to the core! Now, you’re right, Mrs. Barrett. This is a war. It’s a war to save 2700 other students, most of whom don’t have the basic skills to pass the state exam.”

[some applause]

Clark: “Now if you want to help us, fine.”

[coming over to Barrett]

Clark: “Sit down with your kids and make them study at night. Go get your families off welfare.”

Barrett: [getting up in his face] “How dare you talk to these people about welfare!”

Clark: “Give our children some pride! Tell them to get their priorities straight!”

[Barrett sits down. He walks on down the center of the audience]

Clark: “When Dr. Napier came to me offering this job, I saw the lightning flash. I heard the thunder roll! I felt breakers crashing, swamping my soul!”

Barrett: [getting up again] “We are not in church, Mr. Clark!”

Clark: [facing Barrett] “I fell down on my knees …”

[Mrs. Barrett sits down in exasperation]

Clark: “… and I cried ‘My God, why has thou forsaken me?’ and the Lord said ‘Joe, you’re no damn good. No, I mean this! More than you realize, you’re no earthly good at all unless you take this opportunity and do whatever you have to.’ And he didn’t say ‘Joe, be polite.'”

[the people clap in agreement]

Clark: “Do whatever you have to to transform and transmogrify this school into a special place where the hearts and souls and minds of the young can rise.”

[more clapping in agreement]

Clark: “Where they can grow tall and blossom out from under the shadows of the past. Where the minds of the young are set free. And I gave my word to God, and that’s why I threw those bastards out …”

[the crowd starts to shout in both agreement and protest]

Clark: “… and that’s all I’m gonna say!”

[He walks out as the audience gets loud and boisterous]

Lean on Me (1989)