I think a lot about integrity these days. There have been times when I have been pressured to compromise my integrity. There have been times, too, when “the powers that be” have bullied someone. During those years, Scent of a Woman came to the theaters and out on DVD. It is a powerful film. There was an incredibly powerful monologue in it, delivered by the incomparable Al Pacino~delivered before the school administration.
Sometimes a work of art sums up so much, so well, that I really can think of nothing more to say about it. For anyone struggling with the consequences of doing the right thing (i.e. potential alienation, etc.) ~ remember this speech. It is even more powerful in the film ~ but here it is in writing (with swear words removed). Hooo-ahhh! Stay true, strong, and full of integrity. When you do and say what you know is right, you are in the majority of one, sometimes.
“If I were the man I was five years ago I’d take a flame-thrower to this place. Out of order, who the h*** do you think you’re talking to? I’ve been around, you know? There was a time I could see. And I have seen, boys like these, younger than these, their arms torn out, their legs ripped off. But there is nothin’ like the sight of an amputated spirit, there is no prosthetic for that. You think you’re merely sending this splendid foot soldier back home to Oregon with his tail between his legs, but I say you are executing his soul. And why? Because he’s not a Baird man. Baird men, you hurt this boy, you’re going to be Baird bums, the lot of ya. And Harry, Jimmy, Trent, wherever you are out there, **** you too. I’m not finished. Now as I came in here, I heard those words, cradle of leadership. Well, when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall. And it has fallen here, it has fallen. Makers of men, creators of leaders, be careful what kind of leaders you’re producing here. I don’t know if Charlie’s silence here today is right or wrong; I’m not a judge or jury. But I can tell you this, he won’t sell anybody out to buy his future. And that my friends is called integrity, that’s called courage. Now that’s the stuff leaders should be made of. Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew. But I never took it, you know why? It was too damn hard. Now here’s Charlie, he’s come to the crossroads. He has chosen a path, it’s the right path. It’s a path made of principle that leads to character. Let him continue on his journey. You hold this boy’s future in your hands, committee. It’s a valuable future. Believe me. Don’t destroy, protect it, embrace it. It’s gonna make you proud one day. I promise you.”