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For this July 4th, we thought we would discuss a speech we have heard many talk highly of.
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How Good Is That Speech From Independence Day? - Op-Ed Piece
Every Fourth of July comes by, and I witness a few events that shape my day: a celebration of the birth of the nation I call my home.
First, I am off from my job, which is a reason to celebrate anyway. I don’t know about you, but if I had to choose between two places, my job or somewhere not my job, I am choosing the latter. The fact that I can wake up in the morning and not go to my job is a win already.
July 4th has two things in its favor concerning people’s mentality. As I said, people get off from their jobs, which is always a good way to boost morale around the workplace. The second is the great weather, of sunny skies and cool breezes, which gives the day a relaxing feel. You are in a good mood on July 4th before breakfast, because you are not going in, and it is beautiful outside.
Another trademark of the holiday for me is I am compelled to watch the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, one of the most intriguing and disgusting events I have ever seen. People of all sizes and ages and both genders get together to eat as many hot dogs as possible. Because nothing is more American than overeating just because you can. This event shows the true ignorance and stupidity of people. Everyone participates in the event, and I, like so many, am drawn to the spectacle. Who is worse on that day, the spectator witnessing the horror or the participant committing it?
How do you even get into that sort of life? Do you have a family barbeque and eat all the hot dogs, and then everyone sees the great hot dog eater in you, and then they all persuade you to go into that field? What started out in accounting ended with eating food for a living. If I ever ate all the hot dogs at the table when they were put out for the family to eat, they wouldn’t be happy and encourage me to be a professional eater but mad that I ate them all. They would probably think I was pulling a prank on them by saying I ate them all.
Sometime during the day, my Mom and Dad have some back-and-forth revolving around all the hot dogs in the freezer. There are too many because my Dad has this thing about having to get new hot dogs when he eats them. So he makes two and then puts the rest in the freezer until he wants more, so he then buys more and then makes two and puts the rest in the freezer. The cycle continues until we are left with a whole freezer of hot dogs.
After I watch grown adults eat too much food, I criticize the sun for existing. “What is that thing in the sky?” I ask as I take a few steps out of my office.
“That is the sun, Greg. You would know if you decided to step away from your laptop for five seconds.”
“Can we remove it? It is distracting.”
“You know you can write stuff out here. You don’t have to be indoors to write.”
“What? What are you saying? Why are you speaking crazy?”
My neighbors set off fireworks, and I pray that none of them lose their fingers. Why do people have the sudden urge on July 4th to stand way too close to explosives? Nobody even dares to every other day of the year, but on July 4th, you are encouraged to sit by something that may blow up. Do you think the same people who watch the hot dog eating contest are also enthusiastic about fireworks? I bet they are. This reasoning for fireworks is like how people forget how to drive when it’s raining. Drivers see a few drops, and all of a sudden, people can’t make a simple right turn. People hear it is July 4th and want to blow up something that may kill them, forgetting all basic principles of safety.
At one point, I mention to someone that July 4th is not really the day the Declaration of Independence was written. That was when it was finished. I know that is the kind of fact that no one cares about. I used to find that fact interesting, but now I don’t.
"July 4th isn’t the actual day the Declaration was signed!"
"That is great, but can you try to not eat all the hot dogs next time?"
I also watch my local baseball teams, the Mets and Yankees, try to play games. I say try because putting any emphasis on the winning aspect of the game is asking too much of the players. Some of these guys, I am happy, still show up to the stadium and put on the right uniform. And I know there will be a conversation about the advanced stats in baseball that no one understands, and even fewer care about. OPS Plus, what the hell is that? Who came up with that? Exit velocity? Exit velocity? What? Are we talking about baseball or rocket ships? I swear there is a department for these teams that has the sole responsibility to make up stats.
Can you make up a statistic for the number of times the ball bounces before a fielder catches it? That type of stat matters!
And last but not least, I see a certain movie on TV as we flip between the Mets and Yankees games. That movie shares the title of the holiday, Independence Day, and one scene in particular interests us today, where the president gives a speech to the people. I am here to ask you and everyone else, just how good is this speech? And if it is good, why?
From what I have heard and read about the speech, this is arguably the best part of the movie. This one speech seems to have a following onto itself, where people will stop what they are doing to watch the scene. Some have said it is the best speech by a president, which is unusual since it is fiction. Some have said they use the scene as inspiration for getting through a hard time. If the people had a vote on this speech, they would say it is a classic.
Before we get into the speech, we need some background on what is happening in the movie. The president, played by Bill Pullman, is addressing the soldiers on his base before the final attack is made by the humans against the aliens who have shown superiority in just about every aspect of life. You know, sci-fi films, where they give aliens god-like powers, and yet for some reason, they are too stupid to beat us silly humans.
There is a funny scene in the Deadpool movies where Deadpool addresses this trope. He says, “Just once, I would like to meet an alien, dumber and not as good-looking as me.” The other guy in the scene then answers back, “Isn’t that Canadians?” (I still find that hysterical!) Let’s get back to the speech, though.
As I was saying, the president is addressing the soldiers at a crucial point in the film, before the big battle, which will decide the fate of the war. There is a lot on the line with this part of the film because no one really knows if the humans will win. There is a real possibility they can lose. Yes, I know that we, as an audience, know that won’t happen because it is a summer blockbuster, but those in the world don’t know that.
Also, it should be noted that the way the speech is given to us, the movie audience, is in no way practical, or how we would get it in real life. What I mean is that the actual speech was only heard by about 30-40 soldiers on the base. It wasn’t broadcasted to everyone in the world. It is almost strange for us to think of the president in any situation to not have a camera on him as he makes such a profound speech, but that is not what is happening in the scene. There are no cameras around the president as he talks.
One other note, before we take a look at the speech, is how off the cusp the speech is relative to everything else going on. It appears unplanned by the president’s character, not that he was working on a piece all night, and this is what he came up with. He grabbed the microphone from a soldier and then spoke to the few who would listen before he went into the air to join the fight himself.
Here it is:
Good morning. Good morning… In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world, and you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind… Mankind. That word should have a new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interest. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom, not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution, but from annihilation. We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday but as a day when the world declared in one voice, “We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on. We’re going to survive!” Today we celebrate our Independence Day.
The first thing that anyone should notice is the tone of the speech giving its impact on the viewer. These are words of a leader like that FDR or JFK, and if you think that the president from Independence Day is a great president because of this speech, then you are watching the right movie. This speech was written with the intention to show the viewers why the guy who was the president was the actual guy in charge, so the speech doesn’t want the president to appear weak or soft in this situation. We are not meant to see the development of his character here and see how he grew as a leader for his country, but rather that this speech validates his leadership position.
We also have to mention how the speech is not that detailed regarding the war itself, which is a little surprising in the context of the war. He doesn’t mention much about the battle other than there is one. A real president wouldn’t have skipped that part and probably have taken a few moments to talk about the recent battles. He doesn’t mention anything about the actual aliens either to the soldiers, which is a little strange too. Who are the aliens? What do we call them? What do they want? What is going on with that? The speech ignores vital information that we would expect the president to recap us on if this were real.
In that context, the speech seems almost impossible to ever happen in our world because there is little to no chance that the only time the president in this tense of a situation would address the people is in a random speech on the base. There would be a team of people responsible for telling the public the news of what is going on. Kind of like a news station, but for the war. Presidents of the past understood that public opinion, especially in a time of war, can help the war effort, so they put time into making sure the public was well aware of what was going on with the battle. This is the most important battle ever, and we only hear from the president once. That is not how it would work.
A great thing for the president to do would be to have shown knowledge of the battles in the war against the aliens is to talk about them. I mean, literally name the cities where the attacks happened or more details on the war itself. It would be a nice reminder that the guy has been paying attention.
There is a problem with this technique, and by including it, the viewers, you and me, are then taken out of the moment of the speech. I don’t want to hear a recap of the war or what is going on with the aliens; I only want to be inspired! Although the additions I mentioned would be more realistic, they would take away the tone of the piece, which is the key to the whole thing.
He mentions that the battle will be the largest aerial battle in history because, in terms of numbers, it probably won’t be the largest battle. WW2 had battles that had millions of casualties, so he had to make a point to say “aerial” because, despite its significance, this battle in the film still won’t have as many deaths as some of the actual battles in history. I like to think that the person who wrote this scene made an edit to that part of the speech when they realized that they couldn’t say it was the largest battle in the history of mankind because it is not.
Another thing to note about the speech is how American-centric it is. Now, I know that is fairly obvious to say since the film is called Independence Day, but the president is talking as if he is aware everyone knows what he is talking about when he says the Fourth of July, freedom from persecution and oppression. This is a moment where the writer is not explaining everything to the audience. If you didn’t know that on July 4th, 1776, America adopted a document that told the world of the birth of the new nation and the struggle for freedom with the colonies at the time; then you have no idea what he is talking about.
His references are things that make the speech very American, and although the tone makes it inspirational to all countries, the foundation of the American ideals is there. He isn’t talking about the Glorious Revolution or the French Revolution. If he did, this speech would have a very different tone because the references for those two dates have different meanings among people.
Did you get the poetic part of the speech at the end? It is brilliant if you get it. In the Declaration of Independence, the 13 Colonies declared to the world that they were no longer under British rule and were to be seen as a separate country, the United States of America. In this movie, America is making another statement on July 4th, but it is not at Britain but at the universe and the aliens who wish to destroy them. The world is one, and we will not allow aliens to destroy us. Just as the 13 Colonies banded together to fight evil, so too will the world in this movie.
I said this when I spoke about the Gettysburg Address, and the same applies to this speech; it is short. There isn’t that much actually being said. This speech does rely on a technique that I have seen writers use, known as the rule of three. When you speak of something, speak of it in threes. This is not a set-in-stone rule, but people tend to think in threes for some reason, so some of the best-written speeches are written with groups of three in mind, giving the speech a flow it wouldn’t otherwise have. As an example, think of the line, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The thing that makes the speech is the heartful emotion behind it, in that you can really sense the president is being strong for the world and the country, and he is not kidding when he says that they won’t go down without a fight. In the next scene, the president even gets into a jet fighter to join the battle, which happens because this is a movie, and it is better for the guy who gave the great speech about fighting the enemy to join the fight, but there is no way that would happen in real life. The world is fighting a battle that can decide the fate of the world, and where is the president? He is in the battle! I always wondered why the aliens didn’t shoot at the president when he was flying, but that is beside the point.
However you celebrate your Fourth of July, whether it is eating too many hot dogs, staying inside all day, avoiding fireworks, or watching your favorite baseball team lose yet another game, take a moment to watch this great speech from the movie, Independence Day, and take something from it as others have done already.
Was the best speech by a president given in a sci-fi movie where Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum save the world from aliens? Maybe.
Happy July 4th.
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About The Blogger
Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes the reader shares that passion.
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