This is the famous speech of Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (Al Pacino) in the movie Scent of a Woman(1992) defending Charlie Simms in front of the headmaster Trask and the school disciplinary board.
Headmaster Trask: Mr. Simms, you are a cover-up artist and you are a liar.
Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade: But not a snitch.
Headmaster Trask: Excuse me?
Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade: No, I don’t think I will.
Headmaster Trask: Mr. Slade.
Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade: This is such a crock of shit.
Headmaster Trask: Please watch your language, Mr. Slade. You are in the Baird School not a barracks. Mr. Simms, I will give you one final opportunity to speak up.
Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade: Mr. Simms doesn’t want it. He doesn’t need to labeled: “Still worthy of being a ‘Baird Man.'” What the hell is that? What is your motto here? “Boys, inform on your classmates, save your hide” — anything short of that we’re gonna burn you at the stake? Well, gentlemen, when the shit hits the fan some guys run and some guys stay. Here’s Charlie facing the fire; and there’s George hidin’ in big Daddy’s pocket. And what are you doin’? You’re gonna reward George and destroy Charlie.
Headmaster Trask: Are you finished, Mr. Slade?
Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade: No, I’m just gettin’ warmed up. I don’t know who went to this place, William Howard Taft, William Jennings Bryan, William Tell — whoever. Their spirit is dead — if they ever had one — it’s gone. You’re building a rat ship here. A vessel for sea going snitches. And if you think your preparing these minnows for manhood you better think again. Because I say you are killing the very spirit this institution proclaims it instills! What a sham. What kind of a show are you guys puttin’ on here today. I mean, the only class in this act is sittin’ next to me. And I’m here to tell ya this boy’s soul is intact. It’s non-negotiable. You know how I know? Someone here — and I’m not gonna say who — offered to buy it. Only Charlie here wasn’t sellin’.
Headmaster Trask: Sir, you are out of order!
Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade: Outta order? I’ll show you outta order! You don’t know what outta order is, Mr. Trask! I’d show you but I’m too old; I’m too tired; I’m too fucking blind. If I were the man I was five years ago I’d take a Flame-Thrower to this place! Outta order. Who the hell 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 isn’t nothing like the sight of an amputated spirit; there is no prosthetic for that. You think you’re merely sendin’ 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, ya hurt this boy, you’re going to be Baird Bums, the lot of ya. And Harry, Jimmy, Trent, wherever you are out there, Fuck You, too!
Headmaster Trask: Stand down, Mr. Slade!
Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade: I’m not finished! As I came in here, I heard those words, “cradle of leadership.” Well, when the bow 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 it! Protect it. Embrace it. It’s gonna make ya proud one day — I promise you.
Other great speeches by Al Pacino
Al Pacino’s Speech in Scent of Woman (short)
Al Pacino’s Speech in Scent of Woman (long)