Today marks the 50th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s inspiring “Time for Choosing” speech. This speech sparked activism from a whole generation and ignited the Conservative Movement.
Even 50 years later, this speech still carries significant value and lessons for our nation. Reagan delivered his “A Time for Choosing” speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater just days before Goldwater’s defeat by Lyndon Johnson. Despite that loss, the ideas Reagan espoused and the way with which they were communicated lit a fire within conservatives everywhere—and launched Ronald Reagan’s public policy career.
In the speech, Reagan asks the American people to choose between an America built upon the vision of the Founding Fathers and self-governance or an America built upon the leftist notion of “big government.” Reagan depicts the failures of the latter and proves that the creation of a strong centralized government was what the Founding Fathers sought to minimize.
One of his most famous lines from the speech was, “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So, government’s programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.” There have never been truer words spoken. If our government was overreaching and overspending a half-century ago, just think about what Reagan would say today about the state of our union and her leaders today.
In his 1964 speech, Reagan warned, “37 cents of every dollar earned was the tax collector’s share, and the government spent 17 million dollars a day more than the government takes in.” Think of how outraged he would be today with our current economy. The Obama administration has racked up a national debt that now exceeds 17 trillion dollars, and more than 50 percent of Americans receive some type of government assistance.
Today, however, the Obama administration has racked up a national debt that now exceeds 17 trillion dollars, and more than 50 percent of Americans receive some type of government assistance. In addition, food stamp spending has surged with more than 47 million Americans now on food stamps. And all of this has happened under the watchful eye of a President who tells the American people “We have not massively expanded the welfare state.”
Welfare wasn’t meant to be a lifelong benefit, and Ronald Reagan, realized that the government is failing the American people by keeping them on the government dole. Reagan believed in freedom—freedom from the government and its control.
Reagan’s “Time For Choosing” speech also urged courage in defending against the threat of communism. Reagan was a strong believer in American exceptionalism, a notion that has gone by the wayside under the current administration. Consider the current state of affairs with the rise of ISIS and the growing threat of terrorism. Ronald Reagan advocated for “peace through strength” and was a true leader when it came to protecting America from her enemies.
He said, “We want our national policy to be based on what we know in our hearts is morally right.” We need to reestablish President Reagan’s vision for America, and we need to stop leading from behind.
Indeed, Ronald Reagan’s Time for Choosing speech covered an array of timeless principles. One of the most important aspects of his speech, however, wasn’t the message—but the audience itself.
Included in the crowd on October 27, 1964, were Young Americans for Freedom activists—the young men and women who would eventually help lead the Reagan Revolution. President Reagan truly believed that youth of the country—the next generation—would be the ones to carry on the torch of freedom. And, as he concluded his speech that night, he urged all of us—young and old—to “preserve for our children this, the last best hope for man on earth.”
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s “Time for Choosing” speech, we must recognize what it truly is: a call to action to preserve and advance freedom and it is just as relevant today as it was a half century ago.