Ronald Reagan delivers

“A Time for Choosing”

Speaker: Ronald Reagan
Delivered On: 10/27/64
Place: Various locations
Audio/Video Available:

Description: Future president Ronald Reagan presented this speech multiple times in 1964 on behalf
of Republican candidate Barry Goldwater. Multiple versions of this speech exist,
as it was not given in the exact same way each time. This speech became known as
“A Time for Choosing” on October 27, 1964, when Reagan presented it on Rendezvous
with Destiny. This is said to be the speech that launched Reagan’s political career.

The following pre-recorded political program is sponsored by “TV for Goldwater Miller”
on behalf of Barry Goldwater, republican candidate for President of the United States.
Ladies and gentlemen, we take pride in presenting a thoughtful address by Ronald
Reagan. Mr. Reagan.

Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you and good evening. The sponsor has been
identified, but unlike most television programs, the performer hasn’t been provided
with a script. As a matter of fact, I have been permitted to choose my own words
and discuss my own ideas regarding the choice that we face in the next few weeks.

I have spent most of my life as a democrat. I recently have seen fit to follow another
course. I believe that the issues confronting us cross party lines. Now, one side
in this campaign has been telling us that the issues of this election are the maintenance
of peace and prosperity. The line has been used, “we’ve never had it so good.” But
I have an uncomfortable feeling that this prosperity isn’t something on which we
can base our hopes for the future. No nation in history has ever survived a tax
burden that reached a third of its national income. Today, $0.37 out of every dollar
earned in this country is the tax collectors’ share. And yet, our government continues
to spend $17 million a day more than the government takes in. We haven’t balanced
our budget 28 out of the last 34 years. We’ve raised our debt limit three times
in the last 12 months, and now our national debt is one and a half times bigger
than all the combined debts of all the nations of the world. We have 15 billion
dollars in gold in our treasury. We don’t own an ounce. Foreign dollar claims are
$27.3 billion. And we’ve just had announced that the dollar of 1939 will now purchase
$0.45 in its total value.

As for the peace that we would preserve, I wonder who among us would like to approach
the wife or mother whose husband or son has died in South Vietnam and ask them if
they think this is a peace that should be maintained indefinitely. Do they mean
peace or do they mean we just want to be left in peace? There can be no real peace
while one American is dying someplace in the world for the rest of us. We’re at
war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb
from the swamp to the stars, and it’s been said if we lose that war, and in so doing
lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment
that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. Well
I think it’s time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended
for us by the Founding Fathers.

Not too long ago, two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman
who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned
to the other and said, “We don’t know how lucky we are.” And the Cuban stopped and
said, “How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to.” And in that sentence he
told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to.
This is the last stand on earth. And this idea that government is beholden to the
people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still
the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to

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-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan
them ourselves. You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left
or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s
only an up or down. Man’s old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent
with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of
their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for
security have embarked on this downward course.

In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the “Great Society,” or as we
were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a greater government activity
in the affairs of the people. But they’ve been a little more explicit in the past,
and among themselves, and all of the things I now will quote have appeared in print.
These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say, “The
cold war will end through our acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism.” Another
voice says, “The profit motive has become outmoded. It must be replaced by the incentives
of the welfare state.” Or, “Our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable
of solving the complex problems of the 20th century.” Senator Fullbright has said
at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the President
as “our moral teacher and our leader,” and he says he is “hobbled in his task by
the restrictions of power imposed on him by this antiquated document.” He must “be
freed,” so that he “can do for us” what he knows “is best.” And Senator Clark of
Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as “meeting the material
needs of the masses, through the full power of centralized government.”

Well, I, for one, resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and
me, the free men and women of this country, as “the masses.” This is a term we haven’t
applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, “the full power of centralized
government” This was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They
knew that governments don’t control things. A government can’t control the economy
without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that,
it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding
Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well
or as economically as the private sector of the economy.

Now, we have no better example of this than government’s involvement in the farm
economy over the last 30 years. Since 1955, the cost of this program has nearly
doubled. 1/4 of farming in America is responsible for 85% of the farm surplus, 3/4
of farming is out on the free market and has known a 21 percent increase in the
per capita consumption of all its produce. You see, that 1/4 of farming that’s regulated
and controlled by the federal government. In the last three years we’ve spent $43.00
in the feed grain program for every dollar bushel of corn we don’t grow.

Senator Humphrey last week charged that Barry Goldwater, as President, would seek
to eliminate farmers. He should do his homework a little better, because he’ll find
out that we’ve had a decline of 5 million in the farm population under these government
programs. He’ll also find that the Democratic administration has sought to get from
Congress, extension of the farm program to include that ¾ that is now free. He’ll
find that they’ve also asked for the right to imprison farmers who wouldn’t keep
books as prescribed by the federal government. The Secretary of Agriculture asked
for the right to seize farms through condemnation and resell them to other individuals.
And contained in that same program was a provision that would have allowed the federal
government to remove 2 million farmers from the soil.

At the same time, there’s been an increase in the Department of Agriculture employees.
There’s now one for every 30 farms in the United States, and still they can’t tell
us how 66 shiploads of grain headed for Austria disappeared without a trace and
Billie Sol Estes never left shore.

Every responsible farmer and farm organization has repeatedly asked the government
to free the farm economy, but how–who are farmers to know what’s best for them?
The wheat farmers voted against a wheat program. The government passed it anyway.
Now the price of bread goes up; the price of wheat to the farmer goes down.

Meanwhile, back in the city, under urban renewal the assault on freedom carries
on. Private property rights [are] so diluted that public interest is almost anything
a few government planners decide it should be. In a program that takes from the
needy and gives to the greedy, we see such spectacles as in Cleveland, Ohio. A million-and-a-half-dollar
building completed only three years ago must be destroyed to make way for what government
officials call a “more compatible use of the land.” The President tells us he’s
now going to start building public housing units in the thousands, where heretofore
we’ve only built them in the hundreds. But FHA and the Veterans Administration tell
us they have 120,000 housing units they’ve taken back through mortgage foreclosure.
For three decades, we’ve sought to solve the problems of unemployment through government
planning, and the more the plans fail, the more the planners plan. The latest is
the Area Redevelopment Agency.

They’ve just declared Rice County, Kansas, a depressed area. Rice County, Kansas,
has two hundred oil wells, and the 14,000 people there have over $30 million on
deposit in personal savings in their banks. And when the government tells you you’re
depressed, lie down and be depressed. We have so many people who can’t see a fat
man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got
that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they’re going to solve all the
problems of human misery through government and government planning. Well, now,
if government planning and welfare had the answer, and they’ve had almost 30 years
of it. houldn’t we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn’t
they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help?
The reduction in the need for public housing?

But the reverse is true. Each year the need grows greater; the program grows greater.
We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night.
Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet. But now we’re told that 9.3
million families in this country are poverty-stricken on the basis of earning less
than $3,000 a year. Welfare spending is 10 times greater than in the dark depths
of the Depression. We’re spending $45 billion on welfare. Now do a little arithmetic,
and you’ll find that if we divided the $45 billion up equally among those 9 million
poor families, we’d be able to give each family $4,600 dollars a year. And this
added to their present income should eliminate poverty. Direct aid to the poor,
however, is only running only about $600 per family. It would seem that someplace
there must be some overhead.

So now we declare war on poverty, or you too can be a Bobby Baker. Now do they honestly
expect us to believe that if we add $1 billion to the $45 billion we’re spending,
one more program to the 30-odd we have, and remember, this new program doesn’t replace
any, it just duplicates existing programs, do they believe that poverty is suddenly
going to disappear by magic? Well, in all fairness I should explain there is one
part of the new program that isn’t duplicated. This is the youth feature. We’re
now going to solve the dropout problem, juvenile delinquency, by re-instituting
something like the old CCC camps, and we’re going to put our young people in these
camps. But again we do some arithmetic, and we find that we’re going to spend each
year just on room and board for each young person we help $4,700 a ye ar. We can
send them to Harvard for $2,700! Course, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting
Harvard is the answer to juvenile delinquency. But seriously, what are we doing
to those we seek to help? Not too long ago, a judge called me here in Los Angeles.
He told me of a young woman who’d come before him for a divorce. She had six children,
was pregnant with her seventh. Under his questioning, she revealed her husband was
a laborer earning $250 a month. She wanted a divorce to get an $80 raise. She’s
eligible for $330 dollars a month in the Aid to Dependent Children Program. She
got the idea from two women in her neighborhood who’d already done that very thing.

Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as
being against their humanitarian goals. They say we’re always “against” things,
we’re never “for” anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that
they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so. We’re for a provision
that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that
end we’ve accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem.

But we’re against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception
regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program
means that we want to end payments to those people who depend on them for a livelihood.
They’ve called it “insurance” to us in a hundred million pieces of literature. But
then they appeared before the Supreme Court and they testified it was a welfare
program. They only use the term “insurance” to sell it to the people. And they said
Social Security dues are a tax for the general use of the government, and the government
has used that tax. There is no fund, because Robert Byers, the actuarial head, appeared
before a congressional committee and admitted that Social Security as of this moment
is $298 billion in the hole. But he said there should be no cause for worry because
as long as they have the power to tax, they could always take away from the people
whatever they needed to bail them out of trouble. And they’re doing just that.

A young man, 21 years of age, working at an average salary. His Social Security
contribution would, in the open market, buy him an insurance policy that would guarantee
$220 a month at age 65. The government promises $127. He could live it up until
he’s 31 and then take out a policy that would pay more than Social Security. Now
are we so lacking in business sense that we can’t put this program on a sound basis,
so that people who do require those payments will find they can get them when they’re
due? That the cupboard isn’t bare? Barry Goldwater thinks we can.

At the same time, can’t we introduce voluntary features that would permit a citizen
who can do better on his own to be excused upon presentation of evidence that he
had made provision for the non-earning years? Should we not allow a widow with children
to work, and not lose the benefits supposedly paid for by her deceased husband?
Shouldn’t you and I be allowed to declare who our beneficiaries will be under this
program, which we cannot do? I think we’re for telling our senior citizens that
no one in this country should be denied medical care because of a lack of funds.
But I think we’re against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory
government program, especially when we have such examples, as was announced last
week, when France admitted that their Medicare program is now bankrupt. They’ve
come to the end of the road. In addition, was Barry Goldwater so irresponsible when
he suggested that our government give up its program of deliberate, planned inflation,
so that when you do get your Social Security pension, a dollar will buy a dollar’s
worth, and not $0.45 cents worth?

I think we’re for an international organization, where the nations of the world
can seek peace. But I think we’re against subordinating American interests to an
organization that has become so structurally unsound, that today you can muster
a 2/3 vote on the floor of the General Assembly among nations that represent less
than 10 percent of the world’s population. I think we’re against the hypocrisy of
assailing our allies because here and there they cling to a colony, while we engage
in a conspiracy of silence and never open our mouths about the millions of people
enslaved in the Soviet colonies in the satellite nations.

I think we’re for aiding our allies by sharing of our material blessings with those
nations which share in our fundamental beliefs, but we’re against doling out money
government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world.
We set out to help 19 countries. We’re helping 107. We’ve spent $146 billion. With
that money, we bought a $2 million yacht for Haile Selassie. We bought dress suits
for Greek undertakers, extra wives for Kenya government officials. We bought a thousand
TV sets for a place where they have no electricity. In the last six years, 52 nations
have bought $7 billion worth of our gold, and all 52 are receiving foreign aid from
this country. No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So governments’
programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest
thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.

Federal employees number two and a half million, and federal, state, and local,
one out of six of the nation’s work force employed by government. These proliferating
bureaus with their thousands of regulations have cost us many of our constitutional
safeguards. How many of us realize that today federal agents can invade a man’s
property without a warrant? They can impose a fine without a formal hearing, let
alone a trial by jury? And they can seize and sell his property at auction to enforce
the payment of that fine. In Chico County, Arkansas, James Wier over-planted his
rice allotment. The government obtained a 17,000 judgment. And a U.S. marshal sold
his 960-acre farm at auction. The government said it was necessary as a warning
to others to make the system work. Last February 19th at the University of Minnesota,
Norman Thomas, six-times candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket,
said, “If Barry Goldwater became President, he would stop the advance of socialism
in the United States.” I think that’s exactly what he will do.

But as a former Democrat, I can tell you Norman Thomas isn’t the only man who has
drawn this parallel to socialism with the present administration. Because back in
1936, Mr. Democrat himself, Al Smith, the great American, came before the American
people and charged that the leadership of his Party was taking the Party of Jefferson,
Jackson, and Cleveland down the road under the banners of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin.
And he walked away from his Party, and he never returned til the day he died, because
to this day, the leadership of that Party has been taking that Party, that honorable
Party, down the road in the image of the labor Socialist Party of England.

Now it doesn’t require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business
to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed or
the title to your business or property, if the government holds the power of life
and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The
government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute.
Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken
place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of
government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our
grasp as it is at this moment. Our Democratic opponents seem unwilling to debate
these issues. They want to make you and I believe that this is a contest between
two men, that we’re to choose just between two personalities.

Well what of this man that they would destroy? And in destroying, they would destroy
that which he represents, the ideas that you and I hold dear? Is he the brash and
shallow and trigger-happy man they say he is? Well I’ve been privileged to know
him “when.” I knew him long before he ever dreamed of trying for high office, and
I can tell you personally I’ve never known a man in my life I believed so incapable
of doing a dishonest or dishonorable thing. This is a man who, in his own business
before he entered politics, instituted a profit-sharing plan before unions had ever
thought of it. He put in health and medical insurance for all his employees. He
took 50% of the profits before taxes and set up a retirement program, a pension
plan for all his employees. He sent monthly checks for life to an employee who was
ill and couldn’t work. He provides nursing care for the children of mothers who
work in the stores. When Mexico was ravaged by the floods in the Rio Grande, he
climbed in his airplane and flew medicine and supplies down there.

An ex-GI told me how he met him. It was the week before Christmas during the Korean
War, and he was at the Los Angeles airport trying to get a ride home to Arizona
for Christmas. And he said that a lot of servicemen there and no seats available
on the planes. And then a voice came over the loudspeaker and said, “Any men in
uniform wanting a ride to Arizona, go to runway such-and-such,” and they went down
there, and there was a fellow named Barry Goldwater sitting in his plane. Every
day in those weeks before Christmas, all day long, he’d load up the plane, fly it
to Arizona, fly them to their homes, fly back over to get another load.

During the hectic split-second timing of a campaign, this is a man who took time
out to sit beside an old friend who was dying of cancer. His campaign managers were
understandably impatient, but he said, “There aren’t many left who care what happens
to her. I’d like her to know I care.” This is a man who said to his 19-year-old
son, “There is no foundation like the rock of honesty and fairness, and when you
begin to build your life on that rock, with the cement of the faith in God that
you have, then you have a real start.” This is not a man who could carelessly send
other people’s sons to war. And that is the issue of this campaign that makes all
the other problems I’ve discussed academic, unless we realize we’re in a war that
must be won.

Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have
told us they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy
“accommodation.” And they say if we’ll only avoid any direct confrontation with
the enemy, he’ll forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them
are indicted as warmongers. They say we offer simple answers to complex problems.
Well, perhaps there is a simple answer, not an easy answer, but simple. If you and
I have the courage to tell our elected officials that we want our national policy
based on what we know in our hearts is morally right. We cannot buy our security,
our freedom from the threat of the bomb, by committing an immorality so great as
saying to a billion human beings now enslaved behind the Iron Curtain, “Give up
your dreams of freedom because to save our own skins, we’re willing to make a deal
with your slave masters.” Alexander Hamilton said, “A nation which can prefer disgrace
to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.” Now let’s set the record
straight. There’s no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there’s
only one guaranteed way you can have peace, and you can have it in the next second.

Admittedly, there’s a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson
of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter
our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face; that their policy of accommodation
is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight
or surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually
we have to face the final demand, the ultimatum. And what then? When Nikita Khrushchev
has told his people he knows what our answer will be? He has told them that we’re
retreating under the pressure of the Cold War, and someday when the time comes to
deliver the final ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary, because by that time,
we will have been weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically. He
believes this because from our side he’s heard voices pleading for “peace at any
price” or “better Red than dead,” or as one commentator put it, he’d rather “live
on his knees than die on his feet.” And therein lies the road to war, because those
voices don’t speak for the rest of us.

You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to
be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying
for, when did this begin? Just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told
the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have
refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their
guns and refused to fire the shot heard ’round the world? The martyrs of history
were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of
the Nazis didn’t die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well it’s a simple
answer after all.

You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, “There is a price we will not
pay. There is a point beyond which they must not advance.” And this is the meaning
in the phrase of Barry Goldwater’s “peace through strength.” Winston Churchill said,
“The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces
are on the move in the world, we learn we’re spirits, not animals.” And he said,
“There’s something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which,
whether we like it or not, spells duty.” You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.
We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll
sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness. We will keep
in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater has faith in us. He has faith that you
and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and
determine our own destiny. Thank you very much.

Thank you, Ronnie, for the very stirring speech. I am John Kilroy, National Chairman,
TV for Goldwater Miller. I want to ask each of you to take part in this important
presidential campaign by contributing what you can to keep the Goldwater crusade
on the air. Send $1, $10, $50, or any amount to “TV for Goldwater Miller” Box 80,
Los Angeles, 51. I repeat, “TV Golwater Miller” Box 80, Los Angeles, 51. The preceding
pre-recorded political program was paid for by “TV for Goldwater Miller” on behalf
of Barry Goldwater, republican candidate for President of the United States.

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