“Rendezvous with Destiny” – a collection of speeches by Ronald Reagan – includes his first big speech. Called “A Time for Choosing,” he delivered it at the 1964 Republican convention. He was 53, far from governor or president, but he knew his mind. People shuddered. We are here again.
Wrote Reagan, almost 70 years ago, “we have come to a time for choosing.” He begins without ducking. “I am going to talk about controversial things … make no apology for this.”
He says it is “impossible to legitimately debate the issues … without being subjected to name-calling and the application of labels.” More, “those who deplore the use of the terms ‘pink’ and ‘leftist’ are themselves guilty of branding all who oppose their liberalism as right-wing extremists.” Sound familiar?
The man who would one day restore respect for freedom and end the Soviet Union spoke bluntly. His words apply to Communist China. “How long can we afford the luxury of this family fight when we are at war with the most dangerous enemy ever known to man?” Communism is again rising.
Reagan’s message. “If we lose this war … lose our freedom … history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.” “Neutrality” has no place, “if freedom is lost here, there is no place to escape to.”
He quotes Madison, then quotes Plutarch: “The real destroyer of liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations, and benefits.” So, threats are foreign and domestic.
Already in 1964, he sees media pushing a welfare state, socialism, “planned economy,” ignoring our history of risk-taking, individualism, love of freedom.
“Our Founding Fathers sought to minimize” a “centralized government.” “They knew … you cannot control the economy without controlling people.” So, “either we accept responsibility for our own destiny, or we abandon the American Revolution,” let others “plan our lives for us.”
“Already the time is late,” since “Government has laid its hand on health, housing, farming, industry, commerce, education, and to an ever-increasing degree interfere with the people’s right to know.” This was before the Internet, High Tech, Obamacare, federal mandates, federal unemployment benefits, power-grabs, and anti-state election integrity legislation.
This was before Democrats pushed Marxism, division through “Critical Race Theory” (CRT), and Justice investigated parents as “domestic terrorists” for opposing CRT, transgender sports and bathrooms, and redefining biology and math.
Reagan used facts to prove government growth disserves America. “Federal welfare spending is today ten times greater than it was in the dark depths of the depression,” then topped $45 billion.
Today? He would shudder. “In the last 20 years alone, state and local welfare spending has more than tripled in nominal dollars, rising from $233 billion nationally in 2000 to $743 billion in 2019,” with welfare spending “up nearly 180% over that span.” Federal numbers make it worse. See, e.g., The US states spending the most on welfare.
Reagan was right; freedom leaks slowly until the bucket is empty, people at the mercy of a massive, centralized government – suppressing once-cherished rights.
He knew the Socialist tricks. “It seems impossible to legitimately debate” believing “all of us share the desire to help those less fortunate.” Instead, liberals use false assumptions.
Reagan gets ironic. “It isn’t so much that Liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.” Helping Americans prosper is about freedom and opportunity, not dependence.
On Social Security, why not “put this program on a sound actuarial basis, so that those who depend on it won’t come to the cupboard and find it bare, and at the same time … introduce voluntary features so that those who can make better provision for themselves are allowed to?”
Internationally, “seek peace,” but never “subordinate … American interests to an organization so structurally unsound that two-thirds majority can be mustered in the U.N. General Assembly among nations representing less than 10 percent of the world population.”
He decries the “conspiracy of silence” on Communism while we are “doling out money” to “finance socialism all over the world.” The road to hell, good intentions?
He assails widespread public corruption, hypocrisy, ceaseless government growth through ignorance, indifference, and complicity by those elected to keep government limited.
“Under bureaucratic regulations adopted with no regard to the wish of the people, we have lost much of our Constitutional freedom.” He reminds “socialism can come without overt seizure of property or nationalization of private business.” You do not need a Bolshevik or Maoist Revolution, just creeping incursions, wild expenditures, vote-buying, the concentration of power.
Threats take many forms, not least – as federal mandates – siphoning of freedom until the “government can dictate policy and procedure … has life and death power over your business.”
As he tapers, Reagan says: “We approach a point of no return when government becomes so huge and entrenched that we fear the consequences of upheaval and just go along with it.”
So, he asks: “Are you willing to spend time studying the issues … will you resist the temptation to get a government handout? … We must have the courage to do what is morally right …”
What is that, then? “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We can preserve for our children this last best hope for man on earth, or we can sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness.”
Our job – today, as in 1964 – is to stand up for freedom and to win, or let future generations say, at least: “We did all that could be done.” That is our mission now. Reagan’s words echo.
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