Study Guide

1964 RNC Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech Compare and Contrast

By Barry Goldwater

  • LBJ's Nomination Acceptance Speech

    Senator Goldwater made it pretty clear in his acceptance speech what his hopes and dreams for America were all about. But what about the other major party? You know, the one that in fact ended up winning the general election? What did they have to say?

    The answers are all here, in LBJ's "Remarks Before the National Convention Upon Accepting the Nomination" speech from 1964.

    It's wild, it's wacky, it's… actually neither of those things.

    But it's very helpful if we want to get a good picture of the presidential choice that voters had to make in 1964. These two dudes clearly—clearly—agreed on pretty much nothing, other than the fact that America is awesome and Americans are too. Johnson laid out all the Great Society ideas that Goldwater thought were undermining the initiative and prosperity of the country: Medicare, Medicaid, farm supports, government help for the poor, increased federal education funding—stuff like that.

    It was a stirring speech with an expansive vision and a different interpretation of "freedom" than Goldwater put out there.

    This is the true cause of freedom. The man who is hungry, who cannot find work or educate his children, who is bowed by want—that man is not fully free.

    And whose job was it to make sure that man could eat and could afford to educate his children? The government, of course.

    The speech made subtle digs at Goldwater's extremism and toughness, which LBJ saw as fear-mongering and divisiveness. He unapologetically gave nods to FDR, Truman, and JFK, who also had faith in the federal government to solve social and economic problems.

    Voters seemed to buy Johnson's argument. He won in a landslide of epic proportions.

  • Ronald Reagan, "A Time for Choosing"

    This televised campaign speech (October 27, 1964) is famous for catapulting Ronald Reagan into the national political spotlight and setting the stage for his own 1980 presidential bid.

    Here's the basics: He says some really nice things about Barry Goldwater and some really nasty things about Democrats, liberals, and socialists. He talks about freedom, the welfare state, communism, Alexander Hamilton, war, peace, evolution, and Moses.

    Yep, it's pretty action-packed. And in typical Reagan style, it's eloquent and full of zingers and one-liners.

    Reagan claimed that the Democrats were sending the country onto a slippery slope of totalitarianism: big-government takeover cleverly disguised as Great Society humanitarian programs. The Great Society was just a welfare state, according to Reagan, and once people got dependent on a centralized government, they'd give up their freedoms for security and won't want to do anything for themselves.

    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.

    It might start out with social welfare programs, but it ends up in a bloated budget and government control. Better to let the profit motive sort things out and keep the government out of it.

    Reagan rode this train all the way to the White House. In another speech in 1986, he said that he's always thought that "the nine most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

    Sounds like it's a time for reading.

  • Nelson Rockefeller's Concession Speech

    Sometimes concession speeches are sweet and kind, wishing the victor good luck in future endeavors and pledging support.

    And sometimes, they're like this one.

    Watch and listen to eight minutes of thoughtful moderate Republican ideology with a side of Sore Loser and a sprinkling of It's Your Loss. We can hear the chanting, boos, and catcalling of the non-Rocky fans in the audience.

    What we can't see are the people throwing paper at him as he took the stage (paper? really?) or the little pushing match he had with Chairman Morton before he tried to begin his speech.

    Rockefeller's point (made on July 14, 1964) was that Goldwater extremism was, in fact, a vice—even if it was, in Barry's words, "in the defense of liberty."

    These extremists feed on fear, hate and terror. They have no program for America - no program for the Republican party. They have no solution for our problems of chronic unemployment, of education of agriculture, or racial injustice or strife.

    These extremists have no plan and no program to keep the peace and bring freedom to the world.

    On the contrary - they spread distrust. They engender suspicion. They encourage disunity. And they operate from the dark shadows of secrecy.

    Politics, man. It's a dirty, dangerous business.

  • "Statement from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Republican Nomination of Senator Barry Goldwater"

    Senator Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    He did so not because he was a racist (he was far from it, actually) but because he thought the sections pertaining to housing and public accommodations were unconstitutional and gave the federal government too much power while limiting the freedom of homeowners and business owners.

    Maybe he was right, maybe he was wrong, but his position totally got both sides of the issue all fired up.

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the giant of the Civil Rights Movement, put out this statement (on July 16th, 1964) after hearing that Goldwater had won the Republican nomination. While MLK Jr. says that Barry Goldwater is no racist, he also says the senator's position on the 1964 Act is, essentially, completely out of touch with reality and, beyond that, totally immoral and socially reprehensible.

    As usual, King's words are eloquent and stirring, and there can be no doubt that this memo and others like it had a serious impact on Mr. Conservative's presidential campaign.

  • Barry Goldwater, "Freedom"

    Twenty years later (August 22, 1984), it was BG's turn to endorse Ronald Reagan for President.

    Why do we love this speech? Because it's quick, it's easy to read, and the Senator quotes himself and his 1964 acceptance speech not once but twice before he's done.

    We also love it because it's like Part Two of that 1964 speech: Do we have Democrat-blaming? Check. Freedom-loving? Check. Communism-shaming? Check. Much love for strong national defense? Check, check, double-check.

    If Goldwater started the conservative revolution in the Republican Party, 1984 was the year it really all came together and said "Boo-yah!" Incumbent POTUS Ronald Reagan beat Walter Mondale in a landslide election, the likes of which hadn't been seen since… 1964.

    See? It really is like a sequel to the 1964 convention.

    And who doesn't love a good sequel?

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