SAN JOSE, February 6, 2017 – Although the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington are just around the corner, many Americans will often miss the birthday of former President Ronald Reagan, which is today.
One of the most important leaders of the Republican Party in the last 50 years, President Ronald Wilson Reagan, was born on February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois. Being born and raised in the Midwest, Reagan was brought up on simple, down-to-earth, common-sense values, and he carried these values with him as he entered the political arena.
The traditional values that Reagan championed propelled him to become an icon of the Conservative arm of the Republican Party. Reagan essentially transformed the United States in his day with these simple values: his sincere belief in the value of the vision of government that the Founding Fathers had established at the birth of the Republic, and essentially the enduring value of America, and the value of the American people. However, Reagan was a Democrat earlier in his life; yet, he grew more conservative as he grew older, and finally in 1962, Ronald Reagan became a Republican. He often quipped the the Democratic Party had left him, that he had not left the Democratic Party.
Ronald Reagan’s eloquent expression of traditional values came across in a big way in a televised speech he delivered during the 1964 presidential campaign in support of fellow conservative Barry Goldwater’s run for president. However, at that time, as well as in the present, the Republican Party was under the control of the traditionalist or “Establishment Republicans,” which did not readily embrace the traditional values of those of the Conservative “rebels.” And for out-of-step Conservatives, it was normally an uphill battle for respect from the leadership within the mainstream political party. However, through Reagan’s perseverance, he not only gained the respect of the rank and file in the GOP of his day, he fundamentally altered his party through his Conservative “Revolution.”
The speech that Ronald Reagan delivered on October 27, 1964, now known as “A Time for Choosing,” or simply “The Speech,” was essentially a pre-recorded television presentation that ran late in Goldwater’s presidential campaign, after he had secured his party’s nomination at the Republican National Convention that summer. Although it was ostensibly delivered to help support Goldwater;s bid for president, it went beyond that task. In actuality, many versions of this Reagan speech exist as it had been changed a number of times, but Reagan shared those genuine traditional values of the Founding Fathers in a way like no other had done since World War II.
Most Americans remember the part of Reagan’s speech, from which the title originated as almost like a prophetic warning to all citizens of the United States. In this part of his speech, Reagan was referring to statements by elected Democrat Senators who had been touting the value of centralized government, and defining liberalism as: “meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government.”
Well, I for one, resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me, the free men and women of this country, as “the masses.” This is a term we haven’t applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, “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. So we have come to a time for choosing.
Beyond this warning, or ominous challenge to American citizens, Reagan focused on such a much greater point than a simple presidential election. Within the context of Goldwater’s campaign, Reagan stressed his belief in the importance of limited government, but he also expanded on his point:
We’re at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it’s been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. Well I think it’s time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers.
And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.
This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.
You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream – the maximum of individual freedom consistent with law and order – or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.
Intuitively, Americans can sense that in the past eight years, under even worse ideologically intolerant leadership than Ronald Reagan witnessed in his day, America has indeed spiraled downward, nearly out of control. Incredibly, Americans who retained their common sense, and who showed the courage to stand up for a man who still loved his country, managed to keep the flame of freedom burning for at least four more years. Amazingly, the world just witnessed in 2016 that Americans who still loved their country, as bequeathed to them by the Founders, came to an ominous time of choosing with the right mind and exercised their precious right to vote to defend the American Dream.
It is highly likely Ronald Reagan would be a bit relieved as America lurches into 2017.