I cant exactly remember how I came across this specific speech by Ronald Reagan. After all, I’m an Indian in South Africa with libertarian tendencies with absolutely nothing in common with the guy. Yet, somehow I came across it, and now it counts as one the greatest speeches I’ve ever heard. This speech “A Time for Choosing” is potent; and even now it resonates as being powerful. Let me breakdown why I think this is the case.
This speech was given during the 1964 Republican National Conference, and Ronald Reagan opened up for Senator Barry Goldwater who was running as a Presidential candidate. Barry Goldwater lost that election to John F Kennedy, but something interesting came out of this conference. People recognized Ronald Reagan for the powerful speaker that he was. He could move a crowd! And I believe this in no small part played a huge role in his ascension to the presidency.
I remember seeing an old movie starring Ronald Reagan called “Kings Row“. It wasn’t that great, although it did have an fantastic shock horror sequence towards the end. But based on seeing Reagans’ performance, you never would have guessed what the future had in store for him. However, it’s critical to note that this was were he learnt his craft. And thereafter whilst working for General Electric as a motivational speaker he mastered that craft. You see, he would go all over the country chatting to factory workers and regular people. This is where he learnt to have rapport with people. He even got reprimanded once or twice for over stepping his bounds and chatting about politics. This is the ground where he learned how to engage with people. But when he did decide to make his foray in to politics, he was ready. And this speech, “A Time for Choosing” made him.
To me practically everything about this speech perfect; everything from the opening, all the way to the conclusion. He opens up by positioning who he is; why he is speaking; and the manner in which he is allowed to address the audience. He executes the speech with control, decisiveness, and a matter of fact manner that puts him clearly in charge. From the get go, he commands attention and he get it.
For thirty minutes he talks, and only falters once. And even that minor fault is understandable given the complexity of the subjects, the weight of economics he puts forward, and he even brings the math hard and still maintains your attention.
This is speech up there for the ages. If you’ve never seen it, you should.
Todays’ leaders need a teleprompter to make a point. This guys knew what he wanted to say, and he communicated it with precision for thirty minutes straight.
Now before I sound too much like a fanboy, let me mention that I actually don’t like Ronald Reagan. I don’t like his politics. I don’t like how he crushed the unions. I don’t like how he deregulated financial intuitions. I don’t like how he weakened public protections. I definitely don’t like Reaganomics which is one of the major reasons of why we have a failed global economy today. A lot of the mess we find ourselves in today leads back to the policies he affected.
But either way I have to admit, this is one of the best speeches I have ever heard, and I can only hope to live up to this standard.
One clear point to discern from this, is that communication matters. The world we live in today, is a direct result of actions of this man. And it’s a pity that the leaders we need, don’t hold a candle to this mans ability to capture the publics’ attention. Clearly we need better leaders today who can move a crowd.
I have watched this speech a good few times now, and it never seizes to amaze me how potent it remains, and more than that, how relevant it seems today; Perhaps certain messages never grow old, or perhaps certain orators always remain great. But either way, its good to know that we got such brilliant speeches to impress and inspire us.