I was a strange little boy, with my LEGO and my stories and my classic black and white movies. One of my favorite films to this day is Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, from 1940.
Piglet recreates a famous scene in which Charlie Chaplin, as “Adenoid Hynkel,” parodies Adolf Hitler’s ridiculous (and ultimately terrifying) oratory style:
However, I like to think that this is the movie’s final scene, in which the Jewish barber (mistaken for the identical Hynkel) delivers a beautiful speech calling on humanity’s better nature. Here’s one of my favorite passages:
We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We 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 good 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.
Truer words couldn’t be said today, nearly seventy years later. Watch the full speech here: