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'Acting president' Martin Sheen reunites with “West Wing” costars to deliver rousing speech from picket line

'Acting president' Martin Sheen reunites with “West Wing” costars to deliver rousing speech from picket line

President Bartlet hit the picket line.

Martin Sheen reunited with many of his West Wing costars on the picket line Tuesday for the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes on the National Day of Solidarity. The actor delivered a rousing speech that evoked and invoked his most iconic character, stressing the importance of unity and persistence.

Sheen began his speech explaining that he's been a member of SAG and AFTRA since 1961. "That was the same year I got married," the actor said. "Clearly I have a fondness for unions."

Actors of the West Wing at the SAG AFTRA Strike
Actors of the West Wing at the SAG AFTRA Strike

David Livingston/Getty Richard Schiff, Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, Dulé hill, and Allison Janney of 'The West Wing' at the SAG-AFTRA strike

Sheen went on to pay tribute to The West Wing and joke about his character's cultural importance. "I spent the time from 1999 until the fall of 2006 as a member of an extraordinary company called The West Wing, and I was affectionately known in some quarters, at least, as the acting President of the United States," the actor said. "When the show ended its run in 2006, I became known, in some quarters, equally fondly as the former acting president of the United States, and I'm proud to have been part of that extraordinary company, most of whom are here today."

The actor introduced his castmates who stood by his side during the address, including Oscar winner Allison Janney, Dulé Hill, Melissa Fitzgerald, Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff, Janel Moloney, Joshua Malina, and Mary McCormack. He also shouted out series creator Aaron Sorkin, who was present at the event, and costar Rob Lowe, who did not appear to be.

Actors of the West Wing at the SAG AFTRA Strike
Actors of the West Wing at the SAG AFTRA Strike

Michael Buckner/Deadline via Getty Richard Schiff, Aaron Sorkin, Bradley Whitford, Dulé Hill, and other members of 'The West Wing' team at the SAG-AFTRA strike

Sheen continued with a short parable. "The Irish tell the story of a man who arrives at the gates of heaven and asks to be let in and St. Peter says, 'Of course! Just show us your scars,'" the actor said. "The man says, 'I have no scars.' St. Peter says 'What a pity. Was there nothing worth fighting for?'"

"Clearly this union has found something worth fighting for, and it is very costly," Sheen elaborated. "If this were not so, we would be left to question its value. And so now we are called to support the union, support the leadership, and to stand together for the long haul, and to stick to it like a stamp! The studios are always seeing what is and asking why. Let us continue to dream things that never were and say 'why not?' There's so much going on in our country, it is so dangerously divided, and very often we come to gatherings like these and we're inspired because we see the effective unionism and unity."

Actors of the West Wing at the SAG AFTRA Strike
Actors of the West Wing at the SAG AFTRA Strike

Michael Buckner/Deadline via Getty The cast and crew of 'The West Wing' at the SAG-AFTRA strike

Sheen closed his remarks with a prayer from poet Rabindranath Tagore. "We are called to help lift this nation up to that place where the heart is without fear, and the head is held high," Sheen said. "Where knowledge is free, where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls. Where words come out from the depths of truth, and tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection. Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sands of dead habit. Where the mind is led forward by thee, and to ever-widening thought and action into that heaven of freedom, dear father. Let our country awake."

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