Fifty years ago, Ronald Reagan was only the name of an actor past his prime. Then he gave what is called “The Speech.”

The Presidential election of 1964 was winding down, and Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater was 35 points behind incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson. A week before the election, Goldwater’s campaign bought half an hour of prime-time television to make one last appeal to voters. Surprisingly, they gave the spotlight to someone with little political experience – Ronald Reagan, of all people. Though his speech didn’t win the election, setting Reagan loose was the best decision Goldwater’s people could have made.

“A Time for Choosing” was the title of Reagan’s speech, and it set in motion a movement that we still continue today. Goldwater and company were the only voices speaking against the tidal wave of big government and “New Deal” solutions in the 60s. Reagan simply and powerfully articulated what many Americans felt but lacked the words for – that more government is not the answer, and in fact, its meddling always makes things worse.

Reagan didn’t hesitate to take on the claims of Washington, D.C. And his words are hauntingly relevant for our time. (If you’ve never read or watched the speech, take time to do so now.)

“‘The full power of centralized government’—this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don’t control things. 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.”

“No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So government’s programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”

“Now it doesn’t require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed … or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.”

No one who watched would ever forget his call to action:

“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.”

Reagan’s speech set in motion not only his own political career, but a movement to preserve liberty and defend the Constitution against the encroachment of big government and the welfare state. He reminded the American people of the traditional American Dream achieved through our own hard work, and that freedoms of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are the only real guarantor of liberty. ­­­And today more than ever, we still believe that increased government intervention is not benevolence, but only the incubator of tyranny.

We too have “a rendezvous with destiny,” perhaps even more so than the audience of Reagan’s day. It’s time for America to choose – to bow the knee to a governmental master, or to stand and fight for the liberty that has always defined America. In 50 more years, future generations will be looking back at this moment. What will they see?

When looking at us through the lens of history, will our posterity look back and see the generation who utilized the Constitution itself as the weapon against a centralized tyranny that it was intended to be, or will they see people who let liberty slip through their fingers? Will they see a generation that believed in itself enough to call an Article V convention under the U.S. Constitution, to debate and pass amendments to restrain a federal leviathan run amok, or will they look back on a generation too weak and afraid to use the one tool left to us by the Framers for just such a time?

And importantly, as Reagan so eloquently asked fifty years ago, what will be the answer when they ask “whether we believe[d] in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon[ed] the American revolution and confess[ed] that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves”?


About The Author

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.

2 Responses

  1. Rodger Tryton

    More a libertarian call to action than a conservative one… definitely not a Christian bent as he used later with the moral majority to win two elections and one for his vice-president.


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