by Jeff Taylor
When local actor and activist James Lee Walker II first learned the famous speech from Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 film The Great Dictator, he says he thought he’d already hit his “righteous indignation limit” but that he was wrong.
He says that memorizing the speech, which he performed as a supplement for a larger performance, did something to him. Namely, it forced him to realize how far we have not come in all the years following Chaplin’s plea for unity, sanity, kindness and peace.
“That five minute speech should have changed the world in a way that makes where we are now feel shameful,” Walker says. “I shudder to think how heavy and disappointed Chaplin’s soul must be. I feel ashamed.”
Walker isn’t the type to do nothing or accept defeat. He came up with an idea to help spread the ideas behind Chaplin’s monologue, which he considers the greatest speech of all time, in terms of importance.
His idea: to film himself reciting the speech, and then encourage others to do the same. He’s calling it “The Charlie Chaplin Challenge,” and he wants as many people to get involved as possible.
“Politics is the only sport I watch, and I feel helpless. This is something I can do,” he says, adding, “I want everyone to do it. I want celebrities to do it; I want socialists and capitalists to do it. I want children to do it, all over the world.”
He has already released a video of himself performing the speech, replete with a Chaplin mustache drawn with eyeliner, to get the ball rolling. He says he’s also planning on recording another, more dramatic performance of the piece at a later date.
He has already personally challenged a number of his actor friends, but makes it clear in the video that he wants anyone and everyone watching to take up the challenge and make a video of their own.
Those who are interested can find the full text of the speech here. Watch Walker’s video below, and then if you’re moved to make your own, share it with us in the comments below.