Ronald Reagan’s "Time of Choosing" Speech

It was given by Ronald Reagan in the closing days of the 1964 campaign between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater. I happened to catch it on Mark Levin’s radio show as I was coming home this afternoon…and, man, do we need a Ronald Reagan in 2007!. Here’s a quote:

It’s time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, “We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.” This idea that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man. For almost two centuries we have proved man’s capacity for self-government, but today we are told we must choose between a left and right or, as others suggest, a third alternative, a kind of safe middle ground. I suggest to you there is no left or right, only an up or down. Up to the maximum of individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism; and regardless of their humanitarian purpose those who would sacrifice freedom for security have, whether they know it or not, chosen this downward path. Plutarch warned, “The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations, and benefits.

Today there is an increasing number who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without automatically coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they would seek the answer to all the problems of human need through government. Howard K. Smith of television fame has written, “The profit motive is outmoded. It must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state.” He says, “The distribution of goods must be effected by a planned economy.”

Another articulate spokesman for the welfare state defines liberalism as meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government. I for one find it disturbing when a representative refers to the free men and women of this country as the masses, but beyond this the full power of centralized government was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew you don’t control things; you can’t control the economy without controlling people. So we have come to a time for choosing. Either we accept the responsibility for our own destiny, or we abandon the American Revolution and confess that an intellectual belief in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

Where is the man (or woman) who will stand up and say such things in 2007? We’ve lost a lot of political courage in the 43 years since that speech was given, and we’ve got to get it back – because this 1964 speech even speaks to our current difficulties in the War on Terrorism:

The specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face is that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and appeasement does not give you a choice between peace and war, only between fight and surrender. We are told that the problem is too complex for a simple answer. They are wrong. There is no easy answer, but there is a simple answer. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right, and this policy of accommodation asks us to accept the greatest possible immorality. We are being asked to buy our safety from the threat of “the bomb” (Ed.Note: in 2007, “the bomb” has been replaced by “terrorists”) by selling into permanent slavery our fellow human beings enslaved behind the Iron Curtain (Ed.Note: in 2007, those ruled by Islamo-fascists), to tell them to give up their hope of freedom because we are ready to make a deal with their slave masters.

“We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right”. President Bush has shown this courage since Septemer 11, 2001 – will any of the Presidential candidates, Democrat or Republican, have the courage to do the right thing? On the answer to that question will turn the fate of America is 2008. Now, go read the whole thing and become a Reaganite.

15 thoughts on “Ronald Reagan’s "Time of Choosing" Speech

  1. Casper December 21, 2007 / 8:51 pm

    Sorry to be off topic. I just want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas. I am heading to Oregon to spend Christmas with my daughter for the first time in 8 years (for some reason we never made over when she was in Iraq or Kosavo).

  2. Jonathan December 21, 2007 / 8:59 pm

    President Bush has shown this courage since Septemer 11, 2001

    …by invading a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

    What courage. What leadership. What a load of crap.

    And what is it with you guys and Reagan? You talk about him as if he was the second coming of Christ.

  3. bongoman December 21, 2007 / 9:34 pm

    Reagan? Didn’t he sell weapons to Iran, an avowed enemy?

  4. Christian Wright December 21, 2007 / 9:47 pm

    Ronald Reagan? You mean that cowerdly rat that betrayed his fellow actors by naming them as members of the Communist Party during the McCarthy Hearings.

    See link:

  5. Retired Spook December 21, 2007 / 10:20 pm

    Merry Christmas, Casper and safe journey. Johnathan, bongoman, CW — any other time I’d simply tell you to go to hell, but Merry Christmas to you too. How you can hang on to that level of hate at this blessed time of year is a total mystery to me.

  6. anarchist December 21, 2007 / 11:17 pm

    So the state is bad except in the case of communism or islamic terrorism? Even though statism fails in every other effort, these two particular things can only be countered by the aggrandizement of the warfare-security-state? In this situation conscription, confiscatory taxation, fiat inflation, massive government debts, expansion of bureaucracy, spying on citizens, abolition of habeas corpus, torture, agressive war, bombing of cities with “collateral damage”, sanctions against food and medicine, ect…, are all moral, proper and good?

    I especially like the idea of massively expanding the apparatus of the state to prevent communism(a massive expansion of the apparatus of the state).

  7. Diana Powe December 21, 2007 / 11:41 pm

    Read it. Not a Reaganite. A couple of items of note:

    1) Reagan bemoaned the expanding government workforce in this speech.

    Since the beginning of the century our gross national product has increased by thirty-three times. In the same period the cost of federal government has increased 234 times, and while the work force is only one and one-half times greater, federal employees number nine times as many.

    Using his numbers from 1964, the government sector comprised 16.6% of the workforce. Today, that number is 15.9% (including federal, state and local workers).

    2) Reagan lambasted the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and it’s growth. During the 1990s:

    As the electric-utility industry moved toward restructuring, TVA began preparing for competition. It cut operating costs by nearly $800 million a year, reduced its workforce by more than half, increased the generating capacity of its plants, stopped building nuclear plants, and developed a plan to meet the energy needs of the Tennessee Valley through the year 2020.

    3) Reagan complained about social welfare spending. Well, they say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Here is a graphic of the proposed budget for FY2008. You can see where most of the money goes very readily for yourself and it isn’t social welfare that gets the lion’s share.

    A special note on the word appeasement. Contrary to the conservative mythos, human history did not stop in 1938 and the world almost 70 years later is quite a bit different.

    (cue Godwin’s Law)

  8. LewWaters December 22, 2007 / 12:04 am

    Well, guess we have heard from the ‘better red than dead’ crowd that takes freedom for granted.

    Although Reagan is gone, there is one who lives up to his example, Duncan Hunter.

    He is all but ignored by the lamestream media, the same lamestream media that tells us how much better the moderates they say are front-runners would be, the same lamestream media we don’t trust to accurately report on the war.

    Hunter has done more for he country and his district than any of the so called front runners and still, they grant him bare minimal coverage. I even caught Fox News linking to stories on Democrats on their “All About Duncan Hunter” page last week.

    Check out Hunter yourselves at On the issues and see just where he stands on everything.

    It is time we told the media who we want, not them telling us who we are going to get.

  9. eric December 22, 2007 / 7:21 am

    Nice attempt to preemptively invoke Godwin’s law, but no one has made the dreaded accusation (unless you made it to yourself and we missed it).

  10. OhioOrrin December 22, 2007 / 11:00 am

    v07 GOP would never nominate Reagan since being dominated by social “conservatives” who care not for states rights, balanced budgets, or smaller fed govt.

    odd thing is v07 GOP’s leadership are millionaire Trilateralists promoting the NAU while shipping jobs n profits overseas.

    v07 DEM would never nominate JFK.

    the leadership of BOTH parties distract citizens w wedge issues while working to sell-out our constitution.

    wake-up n ask the tough questions.

  11. Diana Powe December 22, 2007 / 12:25 pm


    Not I. However, given what Reagan had in mind at the time, I would be surprised if Godwin’s Law hadn’t manifested itself pretty rapidly here since I called the applicability of the word appeasement, a favorite of the neoconservative crowd, into question insofar as 2007 is concerned. Perhaps that’s why we got the “better Red than dead” reference instead, in order to prevent the fruition of my prediction.

  12. eric December 22, 2007 / 12:42 pm

    True. I may disagree with most of what you write, but I do appreciate your eloquence and intellect.

  13. Diana Powe December 22, 2007 / 1:28 pm


    Thank you very much.

  14. Nate December 22, 2007 / 10:32 pm

    so the 9/11 terrorists were cowards for choosing to kill innocent people in the USA. what does that make bush, choosing to kill anyone (many innocent in a non-responsible country) in turn? certainly not courageous. courage would have been responding to the people who did it (where’s bin ladin?) and then using the good will of the world to encourage real peace in the middle east and elsewhere (what a legacy that might have been). bush hasn’t shown a lick of courage or morality during his entire 1+ terms.

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