A Time for Choosing
I am now (finally) all settled into my apartment at Hillsdale and I have a few days of classes under my belt. I am really looking forward to my sophomore year. My expectations for this unique place are running higher than ever after completing one of my first homework assignments: watching Ronald Reagan’s 1964 speech A Time for Choosing. I have to admit, I have not previously listened to or read this speech. And boy, do I regret it.
The hair stood up on my neck as Reagan’s words echoed through the room. One might even say that I had a “thrill go up my leg.” But in all seriousness, it is incredible how history appears to repeat itself. The only things that seem to date A Time for Choosing are the players and cultural references; the message is timeless and the content still very much applies to our modern dilemma. Please take a moment from your day to watch at least part of this shining piece of rhetoric. I promise you won’t regret it.
We, yet again, live in a time for choosing.
My favorite quotes:
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 man.
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—[up] man’s old—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.
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.
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.
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—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.
-Ronald Reagan, 1964