Study Guide

1964 RNC Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech Quotes

By Barry Goldwater

  • Dissatisfaction

    Because of this administration we are tonight a world divided—we are a Nation becalmed. We have lost the brisk pace of diversity and the genius of individual creativity. We are plodding at a pace set by centralized planning, red tape, rules without responsibility, and regimentation without discourse. (28-30)

    Basically, LBJ has turned the entire country into an enormous slow-moving bureaucratic mass that's destroying freedom and individuality. Barry's not gonna take it anymore.

    Tonight there is violence in our streets, corruption in our highest offices, aimlessness among our youth, anxiety among our elders and there is a virtual despair among the many who look beyond material success for the inner meaning of their lives. (32)

    In other words, when society's going down the tubes and people are generally miserable, who ya gonna call? Goldwater.

    Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism. (49-50)

    Those Democrats, trying to turn America into a land of clones… What are we, the Soviet Union? Are we in Huxley's Brave New World? Rand's Anthem? Goldwater certainly seems to think LBJ and his crew were leading America down that path.

    [i]t's been during Democratic years that our strength to deter war has stood still, and even gone into a planned decline. It has been during Democratic years that we have weakly stumbled into conflict, timidly refusing to draw our own lines against aggression, deceitfully refusing to tell even our people of our full participation, and tragically, of letting our finest men die on battlefields (unmarked by purpose, unmarked by pride or the prospect of victory). (62-63)

    Barry accused Presidents Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson of sending American troops into harm's way without a coherent plan, and without being honest with the American people about what was going on. This was one of his favorite topics to vent about, before, during, and after the election.

    [i]t has been during Democratic years that a billion persons were cast into Communist captivity and their fate cynically sealed. Today in our beloved country we have an administration which seems eager to deal with communism in every coin known—from gold to wheat, from consulates to confidence, and even human freedom itself. (71-72)

    How could we say that we're a free country with free people dedicated to all things freedom, when we're willing to negotiate and trade with communists? And BTW, Shmoop thinks plenty of people fell under communist rule during the Eisenhower era.

  • Philosophical Viewpoints: Republicanism

    Now, we Republicans see all this as more, much more than the rest, of mere political differences or mere political mistakes. We see this as the result of a fundamentally and absolutely wrong view of men, his nature and his destiny. Those who seek to live your lives for you, to take your liberties in return for relieving you of yours, those who elevate the state and downgrade the citizen must see ultimately a world in which earthly power can be substituted for divine will, and this Nation was founded upon the rejection of that notion and upon the acceptance of God as the author of freedom. (42-44)

    Basically, big government is blasphemy. People have free will, and they have this because God gave it to them. And God trumps the government any day. Funny that such a staunch supporter of church/state separation brings God into it.

    Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism. Fellow Republicans, it is the cause of Republicanism to resist concentrations of power, private or public, which enforce such conformity and inflict such despotism. It is the cause of Republicanism to ensure that power remains in the hands of the people. (49-52)

    It's simple: Small government = freedom and creativity. Big government = clones and tyrants. Really? In the 60s? If the conventioneers had taken the bus into town and walked around the Haight or visited City Lights Bookstore, we'd doubt they'd be seeing anything resembling conformity. And don't even get us started on the 1968 Democratic Convention.

    It is further the cause of Republicanism to restore a clear understanding of the tyranny of man over man in the world at large. It is our cause to dispel the foggy thinking which avoids hard decisions in the illusion that a world of conflict will somehow mysteriously resolve itself into a world of harmony, if we just don't rock the boat or irritate the forces of aggression—and this is hogwash. It is further the cause of Republicanism to remind ourselves, and the world, that only the strong can remain free, that only the strong can keep the peace. (54-56)

    This is a dig at the "kumbaya" types who were supposedly meditating and magically hoping for world harmony. BG begs to disagree—only the strong can keep the peace.

    We Republicans seek a government that attends to its inherent responsibilities of maintaining a stable monetary and fiscal climate, encouraging a free and a competitive economy and enforcing law and order. Thus do we seek inventiveness, diversity, and creativity within a stable order, for we Republicans define government's role where needed at many, many levels, preferably through the one closest to the people involved. Our towns and our cities, then our counties, then our states, then our regional contacts—and only then, the national government. (119-121)

    Why say in five words what you can say in 500? Let's break this down: be responsible with spending, keep the state out of the economy, make sure everyone follows the rules, and try to keep government as small and local as possible.

    Balance, diversity, creativity—these are the elements of the Republican equation. Republicans agree, Republicans agree heartily to disagree on many, many of their applications, but we have never disagreed on the basic fundamental issues of why you and I are Republicans. This is a party, this Republican Party, a party for free men, not for blind followers, and not for conformists. (124-126)

    One final attempt to appeal for unity within the party. Who wants to think of themselves as sheeple?

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    I believe that the communism which boasts it will bury us will, instead, give way to the forces of freedom. And I can see in the distant and yet recognizable future the outlines of a world worthy of our dedication, our every risk, our every effort, our every sacrifice along the way. Yes, a world that will redeem the suffering of those who will be liberated from tyranny. (79-81)

    Don't get us wrong—liberating people from tyranny is always a good thing. But given the belligerence and military resources of the USSR at the time, how would this be accomplished? You can see why people were scared that Goldwater would be quick to nuke.

    I can see and I suggest that all thoughtful men contemplate the flowering of an Atlantic civilization the whole world of Europe unified and free, trading openly across its border, communicating openly across the world. (82)

    So this eventually mostly happened. It all started with the European Economic Community back in 1957, which was then absorbed into the European Union in 2009. It's kind of tough to say at this point what the future will hold for the EU, but the flowering-trading-communicating vision is still a nice one. Or is it? Ask Brexit supporters and anti-global-trade politicians.

    I can see a day when all the Americas, North and South, will be linked in a mighty system, a system in which the errors and misunderstandings of the past will be submerged one by one in a rising tide of prosperity and interdependence. (87)

    Colonization, disease-spreading, land-grabbing, bad trade agreements, war, violence, political coups—they'll all be forgotten in this new, beautiful future where everyone is rich and everyone is everyone's bestie. Maybe something like NAFTA would be a good idea. Or not.

    I know that the road to freedom is a long and challenging road. I know also that some men may walk away from it, that some men resist challenge, accepting the false security of governmental paternalism. And I pledge that the America I envision in the years ahead will extend its hand in health, in teaching and in cultivation, so that all new nations will be at least encouraged to go our way, so that they will not wander down the dark alleys of tyranny or to the dead-end streets of collectivism. (93-95)

    Of course, in order for this to work, America has to avoid those dark alleys and dead-end streets itself. Goldwater knows how tempting it is to lean on the government for all your needs.

    I cherish a day when our children once again will restore as heroes the sort of men and women who—unafraid and undaunted—pursue the truth, strive to cure disease, subdue and make fruitful our natural environment, and produce the inventive engines of production, science, and technology. (111)

    Scientists, entrepreneurs, inventors, innovators—those are the people our kids should be looking up to: people who embody the American spirit and rake in the green while they're at it. Who did he think children were looking up to back then—communists? Deadbeats?

  • Freedom and Tyranny

    Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. (45-46)

    Goldwater was probably thinking of some of the fun dictators of recent history, like Hitler and Stalin. Their versions of heaven on earth certainly didn't work out so well for a lot of folks. On the other hand, Barry—generally an opponent of segregation—voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because he didn't think the feds should even be allowed tell people who they could hire or who they had to do business with. Like African Americans, for example. Is it a hellish tyranny to be forced into non-discrimination in hiring and business?

    Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed. (47)

    Nobody likes a control freak. Did he think recent presidents like Kennedy and Johnson wanted absolute power? Johnson turned down the chance to run a second time, for Pete's sake.

    Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism. (49-50)

    Barry's argument is that when a government tries to provide people with the things they need in an effort to make them equal, it actually turns them people into dependent clones who'll do anything the government wants as long as the goodies keep coming. You've seen 'em—that Medicare/Social Security crowd sitting at home staring at the walls unable to think for themselves.

    I believe that the communism which boasts it will bury us will, instead, give way to the forces of freedom. And I can see in the distant and yet recognizable future the outlines of a world worthy of our dedication, our every risk, our every effort, our every sacrifice along the way. Yes, a world that will redeem the suffering of those who will be liberated from tyranny. (78-81)

    It hadn't been that long since Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had been mistranslated as saying "We will bury you" to the U.S. and the rest of the Western world. What he'd actually said is more along the lines of "We will outlast you," but whatevs. For Barry G's purposes, the end result is the same: communism will crumble in the face of the sheer awesomeness of freedom. It took another 27 years for the Soviet Union to fall, but fall it did. And honestly, to see East Germans pouring into West Germany after the Berlin Wall fell—well, we see what Goldwater meant.

    Today… the task of preserving and enlarging freedom at home and safeguarding it form the forces of tyranny abroad is great enough to challenge all our resources and to require all our strength. (129)

    It's hard when the enemy is both at home and abroad. Tyrants, tyrants, everywhere…

    I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. (133-134)

    When Barry G threw this line into his speech, his critics' heads exploded all over the country. "He's an extremist!" they said. "He's going to nuke us all!" they said. But really, he just wanted to make the point that he was all about the freedom, and he wasn't going to respond moderately if anyone tried to take that freedom away. Guess this line didn't really go over like he'd hoped.

  • Equality

    Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism. (49-50)

    If Barry were writing a five-paragraph argumentative essay on equality for English class, this is what we would call his thesis statement. This is also the only time he actually uses the word "equality"' from here on out, he'll be discussing equality in terms of conformity on one hand and freedom on the other.

    Fellow Republicans, it is the cause of Republicanism to resist concentrations of power, private or public, which enforce such conformity and inflict such despotism. It is the cause of Republicanism to ensure that power remains in the hands of the people. (51-52)

    …Because if the government—or any shady would-be powergrabber, for that matter—gets ahold of any of the people's power, we might as well all board the train to Clonesville. What would he think was wrong with a program like Medicare ensuring a basic level of health care for all seniors?

    We see in the sanctity of private property the only durable foundation for constitutional government in a free society. And beyond that, we see, in cherished diversity of ways, diversity of thoughts, of motives and accomplishments. We do not seek to lead anyone's life for him - we seek only to secure his rights and to guarantee him opportunity to strive, with government performing only those needed and constitutionally sanctioned tasks which cannot otherwise be performed. (116-18)

    In case anyone out there was wondering what the government is allowed to do to foster equality, this is it: protect private property. Oh, and take care of any other stuff that is (a) specifically lined out in the Constitution, and (b) couldn't ever in a million years possibly be done by any other entity—maintain an army, for example. Although we hear Jeff Bezos is on the case…

    This is a party, this Republican Party, a Party for free men, not for blind followers, and not for conformists. (126)

    So just in case anyone was confused, all those conformists out there? They're not Republicans. Republicans aren't sheeple, not like those Democrats across the way.

    The beauty of the very system we Republicans are pledged to restore and revitalize, the beauty of this Federal system of ours is in its reconciliation of diversity with unity. We must not see malice in honest differences of opinion, and no matter how great, so long as they are not inconsistent with the pledges we have given to each other in and through our Constitution. Our Republican cause is not to level out the world or make its people conform in computer regimented sameness. Our Republican cause is to free our people and light the way for liberty throughout the world. (135-38)

    In other words, people have the right to be offended… and offensive. The point isn't to agree on everything, but to respect and embrace the differences we have, as long as we're all agreeing to basic Constitutional principles.