Chris Field
Every month, Townhall Magazine features a "Conservative Classic" -- a historic speech or written passage that reflects timeless conservative values. This month, we present a portion of a powerful 1961 radio address from none other than the Gipper.

From the March 2011 issue of Townhall Magazine:



While still a Hollywood man, Ronald Reagan took to the radio airwaves to speak out against a national health care bill, then referred to as the Ferrand Bill and later the King Bill. Although 50 years ahead of his time, Reagan’s impassioned address warned that such a bill would not only bring an erosion of private rights and individual freedoms but would also give socialism and statism a “foot in the door.”

In his memorable peroration, Reagan calls citizens to direct and immediate action. It’s a call as timely today as it was 50 years ago. Otherwise, says Reagan, “One of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”


Radio Address on Socialized Medicine, 1961:

My name is Ronald Reagan. I have been asked to talk on several subjects that have to do with the problems of the day. ...

Back in 1927, an American socialist, Norman Thomas, six times candidate for president on the Socialist Party ticket, said the American people would never vote for socialism. But he said under the name of liberalism the American people will adopt every fragment of the socialist program. ...

One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it.

Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it. We had an example of this. Under the Truman administration, it was proposed that we have a compulsory health insurance program for all people in the United States, and, of course, the American people unhesitatingly rejected this.

So, with the American people on record as not wanting socialized medicine, Congressman Ferrand introduced the Ferrand Bill. This was the idea that all people of Social Security age should be brought under a program of compulsory health insurance. Now this would not only be our senior citizens, this would be the dependents and those who are disabled, this would be young people if they are dependents of someone eligible for Social Security.

Now, Congressman Ferrand brought the program out on that idea of just for that group of people. But Congressman Ferrand was subscribing to this foot-in-the-door philosophy, because, he said, “[I]f we can only break through and get our foot inside the door, then we can expand the program after that.”

Walter Ruther said, “It’s no secret that the United Automobile Workers is officially on record as backing a program of national health insurance.” And by national health insurance, he meant socialized medicine for every American. Well, let’s see what the socialists themselves have to say about it.

They say, “Once the Ferrand Bill is passed, this nation will be provided with a mechanism for socialized medicine capable of indefinite expansion in every direction until it includes the entire population.” Well, we can’t say we haven’t been warned. ...

It is presented in the idea of a great emergency that millions of our senior citizens are unable to provide needed medical care. But this ignores the fact that, in the last decade, 127 million of our citizens in just 10 years have come under the protection of some form of privately owned medical or hospital insurance.

Now the advocates of this bill, when you try to oppose it, challenge you on an emotional basis. They say, “What would you do, throw these poor old people out to die with no medical attention?” That’s ridiculous, and of course no one’s advocated it. ...

What reason could the other people have for backing a bill which says, “We insist on compulsory health insurance for senior citizens on the basis of age alone, regardless of whether they’re worth millions of dollars, whether they have an income, whether they’re protected by their own insurance, whether they have savings”?

I think we can be excused for believing that, as ex-Congressman Ferrand said, this was simply an excuse to bring about what they wanted all the time -- socialized medicine.

James Madison in 1788, speaking to the Virginia Convention, said: “Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

The privacy, the care that is given to a person, the right to chose a doctor, the right to go from one doctor to the other ... this is a freedom that I wonder whether any of us have the right to take from any human being. ... From here it is a short step to all the rest of socialism. ...

The Founding Fathers -- for the first time -- established the idea that you and I had within ourselves the God-given right and ability to determine our own destiny. ...

What can we do about this? Well, you and I can do a great deal. We can write to our congressmen and our senators. We can say right now that we want no further encroachment on these individual liberties and freedoms. And at the moment, the key issue is we do not want socialized medicine. ...

Write those letters now; call your friends and tell them to write them. If you don’t, this program I promise you will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow, and behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country until one day, as Normal Thomas said, we will awake to find that we have socialism. And if you don’t do this, and if I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.

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Chris Field

Chris Field is the former Executive Editor of Townhall Magazine.