Charlie Chaplin’s Greatest Speech: An Excerpt From ‘The Great Dictator’
“The soul of man has been given wings, and at last he is beginning to fly.”
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. 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 the power they took from the people will return to the people and liberty will never perish.
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. 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. Let us all unite!
Look up. The clouds are lifting, the sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. The soul of man has been given wings, and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow – into the light of hope – into the future, that glorious future that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up. Look up!
Source: This powerful and timeless speech by one of cinema’s greatest auteurs, delivered in the 1940 film The Great Dictator, was both a widely celebrated and controversial piece of social criticism directed at Germany’s flourishing Nazi regime of the time. The film, being Chaplin’s first ‘talkie’, would go on to be his most commercially successful, marking a milestone in the director’s career. It has since been preserved in the United States National Film Registry for its contributions to culture and history.