Ronald Reagan Freedom Speech

August 31, 2018

“Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction”

President Ronald Reagan delivered hundreds of addresses before, during and after he was in the Oval Office. While each had its own audience and intent, a common theme was threaded throughout many of them: the need for—and value of—Americans’ constitutional liberties.

Of all of his remarks, the Reagan Freedom Speech is perhaps his most iconic, as it not only shed light on the precarious nature of freedom but served as inspiration for generations to come. He delivered the famous address on Oct. 27, 1964, years before he would become president, at the Republican National Convention. It would go on to catapult him to political fame, paving the way for his path to the White House, and to lay the foundation for his eventual presidential platform. However, the Reagan Freedom Speech wasn’t political pandering or an attempt to seek party favor—the ideas and ideals he espoused were ever-present throughout his time in public office and after.

This is the crux of the Reagan Freedom Speech, also known as “A Time for Choosing”:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

Reagan delivered the address while the country was grappling with the threat of Communism and other foreign adversaries, all while civil rights and other domestic issues were taking center stage at home. With his Freedom Speech, Reagan sought to unify the American people around the shared common goal of pursuing freedom, which he emphasized wasn’t a guarantee. He aimed to motivate listeners out of complacency, to inspire them to keep fighting for the freedom that he knew could be at risk if they weren’t vigilant. That idea has survived for generations and serves as a clarion call to not lose sight of the value of freedom—and the risks of it dissipating from American society.

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