We all know about the Gettysburg address because we learned about it in history class. At just under two minutes and with only 272 words, the speech is amazing in it's eloquence and brevity. I don't know if it's true or not, but it has been reported that Lincoln, thinking his remarks had fallen short, said to an aide, "that speech won't scour." It did scour, of course, and has gone down as one of the greatest speeches of all time.
A speech that I had never heard of until yesterday though was given on October 27, 1964 by Ronald Reagan, who was just an ordinary citizen at the time. The pre-recorded message, which was considerably longer than 272 words, was called A Time for Choosing and it was given in support of Barry Goldwater, who was running for president. As the Los Angeles Times pointed out in an article yesterday, this coming Monday will mark the speech's golden anniversary.
Until I read the article, I hadn't known such a speech existed. But by the time I had gotten through the piece, which included four or five powerful excerpts from the speech, one of which is shown below, I was on the internet looking for the full text.
From A Time for Choosing:
“If government planning and welfare had the answer, shouldn't we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn't they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? But the reverse is true. Each year, the need grows great, the program grows greater.”
Admittedly, I have no cause to consider myself a worthy judge of great all time speeches. But after reading the full text, and with all due respect to those better qualified to make such distinctions, I'd have to say Reagan's effort is worthy of placement on the list. Even though Goldwater took one of the biggest shellackings in the history of presidential elections, Reagan's speech, which was one hundred percent written by him (just like Lincoln's), scoured as well.
Click here and enjoy the full text.
Click here if you'd like to see the actual video.