Tags: ronald reagan | time | choosing | speech | 50 | anniversary

Reagan's 'Time for Choosing' at 50: It Changed a Nation

By    |   Monday, 27 Oct 2014 01:48 PM

Monday, Oct. 27 marks the 50th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's famous "A Time for Choosing" speech, the event said to have launched the modern conservative movement.

Reagan delivered the televised address, also known simply as "The Speech," in Los Angeles on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater a week before the 1964 election.

"The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people," Reagan said. "And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing."

The speech "defined conservatism for 50 years," Reagan biographer Craig Shirley stated.
And Reagan wrote in his 1991 biography: "I didn't know it then, but that speech was one of the most important milestones of my life."

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Shirley wrote for Newsmax magazine: "Viewed 50 years later, that speech is even more compelling, certainly one of the greatest ever by a private U.S. citizen. Almost overnight, he was viewed as a national political figure."

Launching what would become a main theme of American conservatism, belief in smaller government, Reagan declared: "This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government, or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-off capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves....

"No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size."

Reagan had tough words for the Soviet Union: "We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars."

He stated: "You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream — the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order — or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism."

He also told his national audience: "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny."

The reaction to Reagan's speech was electrifying. Small-dollar donations began pouring into a Goldwater campaign that previously had struggled to gain traction. And New York Times columnist Arthur Krock called the speech "perhaps the most cogent exposition of the conservative political philosophy during the campaign of 1964."

Goldwater still lost the election by a wide margin. But soon after the speech, Reagan was asked to run for governor of California.

Reflecting on the importance of the speech, biographer Shirley noted that without the acclaim resulting from the address, Reagan would likely have not run for governor, and had he not, he would never have been elected president in 1980. "His presidency of course precipitated the remaking of two political parties, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the death of Soviet communism," Shirley observed.

And columnist George Will quipped that Goldwater actually won the election of 1964, "it just took 16 years to count the votes."


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Monday, Oct. 27 marks the 50th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's famous A Time for Choosing speech, the event said to have launched the modern conservative movement. Reagan delivered the televised address, also known simply as The Speech, in Los Angeles on behalf of...
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Monday, 27 Oct 2014 01:48 PM
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