How to pare down a 752-page book into a 2-hour cable television event must have been a challenge for the producers of The People Speak, but those behind The People Speak succeed beautifully in presenting a tableau of Zinn's revolutionary piece of nonfiction.
Celebrity personalities come together and read lyrics, prose, and literature that, for the most part, is ignored by the American population especially the nation's leaders.
Each of the readings come from The People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, a book that has sold over 2 million copies.
The special television event lays out concisely how what freedom and democracy people of this nation enjoy is enjoyed because people in history had the courage and moral fortitude to struggle, to be troublemakers and act out because they believed they should stand for a world that ought to be and not simply a world rife with injustice and inequality.
Harris Yulin reads a Columbus Sun Editorial, "The Class That Suffers," which holds an extreme amount of poignancy and relevance when you consider the current growing economic injustice in America. [Text to be posted if I can find it on the Internet.]
The reading that Rosario Dawson gives of the "Women's Declaration of Independence" and the exchange that occurs between Christina Kirk and Josh Brolin who portray a court scene between Susan B. Anthony and Judge Hunt remind us of how far women have come in this nation yet compel us to not forget that women's reproductive rights regularly become bargaining chips in legislative reform battles in this nation.
[JOSH BROLIN as JUDGE HUNT]: The sentence of the Court is that you pay a fine of one hundred dollars and the costs of the prosecution."¨"¨
[CHRISTINA KIRK as SUSAN B. ANTHONY]: May it please your honor, I will never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty. All the stock in trade I possess is a debt of $10,000, incurred by publishing my paper "The Revolution" the sole object of which was to educate all women to do precisely as I have done, rebel against your man-made, unjust, unconstitutional forms of law, which tax, fine, imprison and hang women, while denying them the right of representation in the government; and I will work on with might and main to pay every dollar of that honest debt, but not a penny shall go to this unjust claim. And I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim, "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God."
Viggo Mortensen brought an anti-war perspective of an International Workers of the World (IWW) member to life:
[VIGGO MORTENSEN as IWW MEMBER] If you were a bum without a blanket; if you had left your wife and kids when you went west for a job, and had never located them since; if your job had never kept you long enough in a place to qualify you to vote; if you slept in a lousy, sour bunkhouse, and ate food just as rotten as they could give you and get by with it; if deputy sheriffs shot your cooking cans full of holes and spilled your grub on the ground; if your wages were lowered on you when the bosses thought they had you down; if every person who represented law and order and the nation beat you up, railroaded you to jail, and the good Christian people cheered and told them to go to it, how in the hell do you expect a man to be patriotic? This war is a business man's war and we don't see why we should go out and get shot in order to save the lovely state of affairs which we now enjoy.
Each element of The People Speak is a reminder of (or for some Americans, an introduction to) how government has only ever been moved to act by the actions of organized citizens. Pure sentiments or feelings or public opinion has rarely translated into any kind of meaningful change.
Out of all that is read, perhaps, the people's reading that may hold the most significance in these times is Langston Hughes' "Ballad of Roosevelt" written in November of 1934. Read the words of this poem or view Danny Glover reading them:
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