As we approach the 100th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s birth, February 6, 2011, it is enlightening and entertaining to look back on the speech that launched his political career. This was a nationally televised address delivered on October 27, 1964, in support of Senator Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. Reagan’s speech — called “A Time for Choosing” — remains incredibly fresh and relevant to current challenges confronting America. I will quote a few passages along with my contemporary spin.
“I have spent most of my life as a Democrat. I recently have seen fit to follow another course.”
This is certainly my story and that of many current conservatives as well!
“. . . as we were told a few days ago by the president [Lyndon Johnson], we must accept a ‘greater government activity in the affairs of the people.’”
Isn’t this the story of Obamacare plus the past 45 years of the federal government’s creeping control over and micromanagement of the health care delivery system? Many Obama supporters don’t think LBJ went far enough with government programs attempting to solve every social and moral issue. They still believe, as Reagan described it, that:
“They are going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning.”
How about loyalty and fealty to the U.S. Constitution?
“Senator Fulbright [a Democratic senator from Arkansas and a subsequent mentor to President Clinton] has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the president as our moral teacher and our leader, and he said he is hobbled in his task by the restrictions in power imposed on him by this antiquated document. He must be freed so that he can do for us what he knows is best.”
Does this sound like some of the contemporary Congressional Democrats who chaffed at having to listen to the text of the Constitution being read to them? Ironic, since they take a solemn oath to uphold it!
“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.”
That’s a profound observation based on the long experience of human history, but one which President Obama has only begrudgingly and marginally conceded after the 2010 midterm election results.
“Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we are denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we are always ‘against’ things, never ‘for’ anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn’t so.”
Does this sound a bit like the current global warming hysteria zealots who will bend any science and make any preposterous claim to justify their goals of regulating everything we emit, regardless of cost or actual effectiveness?
“We are for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we have accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem. But we are 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 who depend on them for livelihood. They have called it insurance to us in a hundred million pieces of literature. But then they appeared before the Supreme Court and they testified that 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.”
This observation remains just as true today, as Social Security taxes exceeding annual payouts go straight into underwriting the government debt rather than building up individual retirement savings. And the future financial prognosis? In 2009 the Office of the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration calculated an unfunded obligation of $15.1 trillion for the Social Security program.
Did you think the United Nations was the paradigm of virtue in 1964?
“I think we are for an international organization, where the nations of the world can seek peace. But I think we are against subordinating American interests to an organization that has become so structurally unsound that today you can muster a two-thirds vote on the floor of the General Assembly among the nations that represent less than 10 percent of the world’s population.”
Has the U.N. gotten any better since then, or any less anti-American and anti-Israel?
What about dealing with the threat of radical Islamic terrorism? While the Cold War is over — due to President’s Reagan’s bold leadership — we are in the midst of a lengthy war with radical Islamists requiring similar courage and strength on our part. Then, as now, efforts at appeasement to buy safety and a false peace are misguided. The stakes are equally high, as a worldwide radical Islamic theocracy would return humanity to a barbaric pre-enlightenment and pre-renaissance civilization. Reagan wisely quoted Alexander Hamilton:
“A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.”
But I’ll let Reagan have the final words of wisdom:
“You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on Earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”
C. Scott Litch is the chief operating officer and general counsel for a non-profit association. Scott is a licensed attorney, Certified Association Executive, and also holds a masters degree in public policy. He is the author of The Principled Conservative in 21st Century America, released in the fall of 2010 just prior to the GOP mid-term election tsunami.