U.S. #4078 – Speeches such as “A Time for Choosing”earned Reagan the nickname, “Great Communicator.”

Ronald Reagan Enters National Politics

On October 27, 1964, Ronald Reagan delivered his “A Time for Choosing” speech for Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign, making him a national name.

Even as a young man, Reagan showed an interest in acting and politics. He appeared in school plays throughout his high school career and was elected president of the student council. And in college he participated in many different sports, played the lead role in several school productions, and served as the president of the student body.

Item #M8328 – Reagan’s experience as an actor helped him to become the great speaker we knew him as.

Reagan began his career as a sportscaster and then actor for 27 years. He first entered politics as a Democrat, campaigning for Harry Truman in 1948. However, during the 1950s, Reagan gradually adopted more conservative views, campaigning for Republican candidates Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. In 1962, Reagan officially joined the Republican Party.

By 1964, Reagan was co-chairman of Californians for Barry Goldwater, the Republican candidate for president that year. He traveled up and down the state delivering stirring campaign speeches. One night, a group of Republican leaders were in the audience and approached him after the speech. They asked if we would deliver that speech on national TV. He agreed, and suggested that they film him in front of a live audience, which they agreed to do.

U.S. #4494 – Read the text of Reagan’s address here.

Reagan’s speech aired on the night of October 27, 1964. It has come to be known as “A Time for Choosing” and also simply, “The Speech.” While many Americans knew Reagan from his acting career, this was the first time most had seen him as a politician. He was far more serious and angry than he had been in his movie roles, making for a dramatic speech. Reagan frequently referenced the fact that he was previously a Democrat and believed that he had not left that party, but it had left him.

In contrast to Goldwater’s combative slogans, Reagan shared emotional stories. He strongly opposed big government and criticized its increasing expansion, saying “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.”

Item #M10768 – You can watch Reagan’s address here.

Reagan anxiously watched the speech the night it aired, saying he hoped he hadn’t let Goldwater down. Then around midnight (in California) he received a call from a member of Goldwater’s staff in Washington, D.C. (where it was 3 a.m.) telling him that the switchboard was still lit up from all the pledge calls they were getting. Reagan’s speech ended up raising around $8 million for Goldwater’s campaign.

Reagan’s speech is often considered one of the most effective ever made for a candidate. His biographer, Craig Shirley, said that the speech “defined conservatism for 50 years.” Though Goldwater lost the election, Reagan became a national political figure. He was asked to run for Governor of California and began his ascent to the presidency.

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    1. He most certainly was born in the United States. He was born in Phoenix, Territory of Arizona. As a territoy, Arizona was very much part of the United States but residents were unable to vote in Federal elections just as residents of Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Island and the Comtlmonwealth of the Northern Marianas can’t now. Nevertheless, all are part of the United States, just not members of the Union.

  1. Boy could we use a Ronald Reagan today. Other than my deceased loved ones, if there is anyone deceased I could resurrect, it would be Reagan.

  2. Great information on President Reagan. Thanks for the links to his “Time for choosing speech.” I love it when you add links to further information. It adds even more to an already great daily “This Day in History,” lesson. Great job, Mystic.

  3. Great information and insight on a true American. In addition to publishing these stories at the end of the first year, I hope Mysic will include some of the responses pro and con of these wonderful articles. This is what the United States is all about.

  4. Terry–thanks for the tidbit on his birth! That is political trivia and I love it. Thanks to Myatic for creating this information forum.

  5. If Reagan was alive today, the Republicans wouldn’t nominate him for President. He wasn’t far right enough, and he would actually negotiate with the Democrats and compromise.

  6. My dad used to play with Ronald when they were children until my grandmother ( a stern Dutch woman) said he couldn’t anymore because his father was a “drunk”!

  7. I met with Ronald Reagan about a dozen times during his 8 great years as President of the USA. A truly GREAT American ! I am honored to praise the pure and real quality of this true Gentleman. Whether or not anyone agrees or disagrees with my personal feelings about President Reagan, let me assure you he was NOT like some of crap-individuals in Congress today … “NO way,” Jose !!! President Reagan was, in my personal opinion, an honest and amazing American Patriot-President. I spent time with other U.S. Presidents during my years in Washington as a registered lobbyist… and except for two, I thought they were all “good guys” … . but, Ronald Reagan was clearly and easily the BEST of the U.S. Presidents I had the privilege of meeting and working with. God rest his soul !!

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