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A Time for Choosing: even truer 44 years later

Once again, we have a rendezvous with destiny

I spotted an allusion yesterday to a Ronald Reagan speech delivered in 1964 in support of Barry Goldwater. Unfortunately his message was not heeded that election, and one can trace a direct path from that time of choosing for the America to the time of choosing that voters face next Tuesday.For indeed, it was Lyndon Johnson’s victory that launched the Great Society, which through welfare destroyed the ongoing integration of the black community into our society, which led in turn to the alienation and breakdown of the black family and to a culture of perpetual grievance and a spawning ground for left-wing radical utopians, culminating in the candidacy of Barack Obama this year.

As we know, Ronald Reagan himself did ascend to the Presidency, though not until 1980, and it was under his administration that the U.S. midwifed the demise of the Soviet Union and imprisoned its ideology that led to the death and murders of tens of millions and untold misery for hundreds of millions more.

Yet eternal vigilance remains the price of freedom, as once again America is being allured to follow a false prophet into embracing the failed policies of the New Deal and the Great Society, and in the process surrendering our precious patrimony of freedom, for which so many have sacrificed and died.

Listening (or reading the transcript) to this speech, it is uncanny how the exact same fault lines of that election are once again confronting us in this election.

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.

It was true then, and it is even truer today. It is rare in the course of history that a nation is given a second chance for choosing anew. Let us make the right choice this time.

More excerpts from this speech:

There can be no real peace while one American is dying some place in the world for the rest of us. We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it has been said if we lose that war, and in doing so 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.

Not too long ago two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, “We don’t know how lucky we are.” And the Cuban stopped and said, “How lucky you are! I had someplace to escape to.” In that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth. And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except to sovereign people, is still the newest and 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 capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down–up to a man’s age-old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order–or down to the ant heap totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives — those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the “Great Society,” or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a “greater government activity in the affairs of the people.” But they have been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves–and all of the things that I now will quote have appeared in print. These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say “the cold war will end through acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism.” Another voice says that the profit motive has become outmoded, it must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state; or our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century.

Senator Fullbright 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. And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines 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 man and woman 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. 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. Government 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? 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, inalienable 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.

Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us that they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy “accommodation.” And they say if we only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he will forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers.

We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb by committing an immorality so great as saying to a billion now in slavery behind the Iron Curtain, “Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skin, we are willing to make a deal with your slave masters.” Alexander Hamilton said, “A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.” Let’s set the record straight. There is no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there is only one guaranteed way you can have peace–and you can have it in the next second–surrender.

You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin–just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard ’round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn’t die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well, it’s a simple answer after all. You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, “There is a price we will not pay.” There is a point beyond which they must not advance.

And finally the line that characterizes this campaign:

Our Democratic opponents seem unwilling to debate these issues. They want to make you and I believe that this is a contest between two men…that we are to choose just between two personalities.

No, Barack, it’s not just two people – it’s light vs. darkness, freedom vs. slavery, individual initiative vs. castrating socialism, life vs. death, following the truth vs. worshipping the lie.

America wake up! The hour is late but doom has not yet overtaken us. Therefore, choose life: for us and for our descendants.

Full speech transcript here
Final four minute of speech (video)

(cross-posted at And Rightly So!)

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