“The Speech” — Ronald Reagan, October 27, 1964

Fifty years ago today Ronald Reagan made a famous televised speech in support of Barry Goldwater’s doomed presidential candidacy. The speech was entitled “A Time for Choosing” — but it came to be known simply as “The Speech”.

As Goldwater crashed and burned, Reagan ascended in a single bound to being the leader and embodiment of the American Conservative movement.

It was a spectacular launch to his political career.

Michael Barone has a good piece about The Speech today.

The text of The Speech is here.

Much of it could be read today and it would still apply, word for word.


Here is a good article about The Speech and the rise of Reagan: Reagan, Goldwater and Rise of Conservatism, by Pat Horan.

13 thoughts on ““The Speech” — Ronald Reagan, October 27, 1964”

  1. “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 45 cents worth?”

    In your heart…you know he’s right

    It’s incredible to think that Conservatives in 1964 were attacked as extremists when they would be moderates today given the collapse of the Welfare State and the dissolution of the Left Wing coalitions that enabled it.

  2. I was 14 when Goldwater was running – so enthused I was a preceinct worker – knocking on doors. Remember this caused a huge split wit hthe Rockefeller faction – and a lot of doors were slammed in my face.

    But looking back, was anything he said – extreme?

    Fix social security?

    Don’t go into a war unless you plan to win it?

    Particularly galling was Johnson’s labeling him as a “warmonger” all along planning to engineer an incident (Gulf of Tonkin( designed to pull us in.

    Remember this?


  3. Much of it could be read today and it would still apply, word for word.

    Which only goes to show how little Reagan was able to accomplish in his 8 years given the congress he had to deal with. Much was left for future generations who were inspired by his words and accomplishments. That inspiration is his greatest accomplishment as I hope will start to become apparent in 3 years.

  4. “…how little Reagan was able to accomplish…”

    The Soviet Union is gone.

    Government growth was flat for 8 years.

    That’s enough for any one president.

  5. I read someone a while ago who said that Reagan’s aim was to end the Cold War. As it happened, he also won it.

    If anything that makes me think even more highly of him. Winning was very nice, indeed excellent, but ending it was, quite properly, his first priority. It seems to me to be wiser to make your priority something that you think you can achieve rather than something that might or might not be achievable. Is it too much to say that he’s the leading American statesman since Washington? Or would that depend on your view of Lincoln? Would it be mere sentimentality to let your view of FDR be tempered by his vile personality?

  6. I was working that summer of 1960 in Chicago during summer vacation from college. I remember the convention in Chicago in 1960 where Goldwater gave a famous speech.

    The highlight of the convention was the speech by U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona removing himself from the race where he called on the Conservatives to take back the party.

    It was downtown Chicago, maybe at the Tribune Tower area. I was walking by thinking how much fun it would be to be at the convention but I had to work.

  7. In 1976 Emmanuel Todd predicted the fall of the USSR based on internal data such as infant mortality. Reagan may have accelerated the process through SDI, but it would be gone in any event.

    Government growth was far from flat.

    Civilian federal employees rose 260,000 to 3,064,000 the second highest level in history only to the 3,067,000 of 1990.
    Debt rose 1.860 trillion to 2.857 trillion from 997 billion.
    Annual spending rose 465 billion from 678 billion to 1,144 billion.
    He did cut spending as a % of GDP from 21% to 20%, but still high by historical standards as a result defense spending that helped hasten the demise of the Soviet Union.

    All amounts are nominal.

    Hardly flat.

    Reagan’s primary accomplishment may be in inspiring a generation that actually holds government flat or even cuts it.

  8. “Reagan may have accelerated the process through SDI, but it would be gone in any event.”

    The notion that all he did was SDI is surely quite wrong.

  9. Federal spending as a percentage GDP actually peaked at 24% in 1983, which was the bottom of the severe economic recession. Revenues peaked in 1981, Reagan’s first year. He inherited a very bad situation.

    The spending increases started in 1979 during Carter’s last year, and most of the run-up thereafter can be attributed to entitlement spending. Reagan was dealing with an overwhelmingly Democratic House that annually slavishly increased outlays. He had to compromise with them to get his tax cuts and fund his defense programs, which as a percentage of GDP were half as much as what we spent in the 1950s.

    After the recession subsided and Reagan cut tax rates by 50%, revenues increased, to the dismay of his critics and linear thinkers. Spending decreased to 21% of GDP during his last year. More importantly, after 1983 he set into motion the course that the US would follow up until 2000, which was a decrease in government and a balanced budget (well, actually, aside from the bump in the road of Bush I who pushed his ‘No New Taxes’ taxes through which actually decreased revenue).

    When looking at growth of federal spending per capita, Reagan’s presidency was less than Nixon/Ford, it was about half as much as JFK/LBJ, and about 1/10 less than Truman. In the relative terms of the post-war explosion of federal spending and the creation of the welfare state, reversing this cancerous growth was one of Reagan’s most important legacies.

  10. I would like to read The Speech revised with today’s numbers.

    If, indeed, there is such a revised text, I would appreciate a reference.

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