In Confidence We Walk: Upton Sinclair's Keynote Speech to the National Writer's Consortium, 1943
This is a complete transcript of the speech entitled In Confidence We Walk, delivered by the already prolific writer Upton Sinclair. Spoken before the National Writer's Consortium, an early collective of respected, noteworthy writers from over three nations, Mr. Sinclair was honored with the keynote address to complete the consortium's five-day convention on the utilization of first-person narrative.
For posterity, and dramatis maximitus, the speech is annotated where relevant.
Wayne McAllister Kertz, Czar-elect of the National Writer's Consortium enters center stage. The crowd responds with slightly vigorous (yet never inappropriate) applause. He nods for a moment, then cordially motions for the crowd to cease its praise.
Esteemed members of the National Writer's Consortium, it is with the utmost pride and greatest sincerity that I now present to you, the winner of the 1941 Crandenberg Grant for Outstanding Award Winning, Mr. Upton Sinclair.
The crowd applauds with slightly more sincerity as Mr. Sinclair approaches the podium. He shakes the hand of Mr. Kertz, and adjusts his microphone.
Thank you, thank you. And thank you for the lovely introduction, Mr. Kertz. I wasn't listening to it, but from what I've been told, it was very accurate.
Ladies and Gentlemen – mainly the gentlemen, as that is the bulk of our collective here – I speak to you candidly and with the sincerity I'd grant to that of a dear friend, or even perhaps my personal barber, Jamison. In fact, the bulk of this speech has been a topic of discussion between Jamison and myself before, and we do so suspect that the subject has crossed the minds of many of my close friends here in the audience this evening. It's simplicity is so, dare I say easy, but as I have learned, and firmly believe, it is a trait which the vast majority has forsaken for the sly embrace of modesty.
No more I say. NO MORE, I say. No gentlemen, that is indeed NOT WHAT I SAY! (looks into the front row of tables) What do I say Mr. Lessenberg? Well I'll tell you. Right. Now!
Mr. Sinclair steps onto a soapbox, appearing to gain a good four inches behind the podium.
GENTLEMEN! STICK YOUR JOHNSONS OUT THE WINDOW OF A LOCOMOTIVE!
The crowd sits stunned, unsure just how to respond. After a dramatic pause, Mr. Sinclair continues.
Yes my friends, it really is as easy as the proverbial Sunday pie! True ultimate power rests in the heart of each and every one of us, if we are willing to take a stand. But standing is a mere half the battle! We must stand tall, large and proud, find a window, and – assuming we're on the 7:20 to Boston-town – stick our penises out of it!
Mr. Sinclair looks into the crowd.
Ah yes, Mr. Lessenberg asks “Why a locomotive? Why must it be a moving train?” Ha, Johann, it is obvious you've never been truly free before. For any man can timidly drop trou in his rumpus room and expose himself to his neighbor's wife; there is no courage in that, Mr. Lessenberg. Nor is there courage in self-exposition at your local marketplace, restaurant or bowling alley. That is an act of a timid and somewhat perverse individual. This has nothing to do with such perversions, Mr. Johann Polonius Lessenberg!
The crowd has no idea whether to laugh or not. Mr. Sinclair grins for a brief moment and continues.
Ah, the train: man's gift to mankind. Neither John Henry nor his blue ox could foresee its power. Its majesty glows brightly from the Mississippi all the way to the Orient. Just perchance to board one, a man should kiss the very tracks on which it glides. How can one truly feel such power? So very simply my friends: unlatch your window, angle your manhood outward, and make a statement to the world!
Mr. Sinclair steps onto another even larger soap box and pulls a copy of the bible out of his pocket.
I AM A MAN! (slams fist on the bible)
I AM A FREE MAN! (slams fist on the bible again)
AND I AM STICKING MY TALLYWHACKER OUT THE WINDOW OF A GODDAMN MOVING TRAIN! (violently flings the bible into the crowd; it is caught by novelist Lanvel Oliver Hunt, who passes out upon viewing the book's spine)
Mr. Sinclair, winded, looks to the stunned audience. He steps down from the soapboxes and adjusts his tie.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the 1943 National Writer's Consortium, never apologize for who you are.
Mr. Sinclair begins to walk off stage. The crowd sits utterly awestruck. After a moment of silence, a young writer in the back of the room stands and begins clapping passionately. He is the only one to do so.
- The consortium began admitting women for membership in 1951.
- These words would be adopted as a campaign slogan by presidential hopeful Barry Goldwater years later.
- To date, no discovery of any proverb involving Sunday pie has been discovered.
- The author Mr. Sinclair has been referring to as “Mr. Lessenberg” is in fact Alfred Poindexter. He'd never met Mr. Sinclair personally before, and never uttered a word the entire time he spoke. Why Mr. Sinclair singled him out and called him Mr. Lessenberg is a mystery to this day.
- Lanvel Oliver Hunt went on to say that the bible “scorched his hands with the intensity of a witch burning in Salem.”
- That young writer was none other than Cormac McCarthy, who would also go on to win the Crandenberg Grant for Outstanding Award Winning. He was a devoted follower of Mr. Sinclair’s, and was arrested several times for indecent exposure in or around train stations across the United States.