an analysis of a time for choosing

Millions of viewers tuned into the National Broadcasting Company television network for a special broadcast on the 27th of October. Viewers were anticipating Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” speech. Reagan was acknowledged for his acting in motion pictures and television episodes since 1937, and was now being seen in an unfamiliar role. Reagan emerged in support of the Republican nominee Barry Goldwater. Barry Morris Goldwater was a businessman and five-term United States Senator from Arizona and the Republican Party’s nominee for president in the 1964 election. “A Time for Choosing” utilizes a plethora of rhetoric: style, delivery, pathos, logos, ethos, & hyperboles. His speech was effective, because he used a number of these rhetorical techniques throughout his speech.

In the beginning of his speech, he uses a unique style to communicate his speech. He immediately starts off with a clear and precise tone, however his assortment of words indicates a consciousness of concern. Reagan’s tone in this speech is serious and influential. He wants the audience to understand his viewpoints and how he feels about his ideas. He believes that his ideas are what will keep the country going and that these beliefs must be expressed to the audiences in the hopes of being understood. For the audience he gives them examples of how government interference hurts Americans and also allusions to past times such as the revolution and how the founding fathers did not want a big government. He shares that he has “an uncomfortable feeling that this prosperity isn’t something on which we base our hopes the future.” Reagan’s ability to connect with his audience was rare and unlike many of his colleagues. Whether the topics he spoke on were always relevant to that of the listener, it did not always matter. Reagan had gained strong speaking skills while previously working in the acting industry thus enabling him to better connect with his audience. Reagan believes that the country is headed in the wrong direction and that America has several challenges at home and abroad. America’s government was in an economic crisis during the time this speech was given. He knew the citizens needed to hear something strong and powerful that promised change for a better way of life. “A Time for Choosing” was deliberative and not only informed and inspired the audience but it also provided America with a lighthearted source of entertainment. The style changes at the end of the speech and establishes an optimistic anticipation for the future. Reagan constructs the case for Goldwater and states in his closing sentence “We will keep in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny.” Reagan’s style expresses a clear concern for the future, yet an optimistic hope for change that he sees in Barry Goldwater. His inspirational style facilitates him to engage with the American citizens.

“A Time For Choosing” was a fairly long speech nearly thirty minutes. Reagan delivered his speech with no intermissions, no scene change or power point presentations to break the tedium of a long speech; one might wonder how someone can hold the attention of an audience for such an extended amount of time. Reagan achieved this by creating emotional change within the hearts and minds of his listeners. One minute he informs them that Kansas had been “declared a depressed” area due to financial crisis, thus tugging on the audiences’ heartstrings. The next minute he has the audience crying from laughter while belittling the government, saying, “When the government tells you you’re depressed, lie down and be depressed.” Towards the end of the speech, Reagan uses repetition to emphasize a connection between himself and his audience. In the last three paragraphs of the speech, Reagan uses “You and I” four times. The use of “You and I” makes the audience feel included and makes them believe they have the same values and opinions as Reagan does. “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny” is perhaps the most famous line from the speech. People are inspired by the speech because Reagan gives the American people hope for their future and their children’s future. His use of repetition conveys to us that we “have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny”. Repetition is a powerful rhetorical technique that Reagan exercises to emphasize unity among the American people. Reagan kept his audience eager for more. He would expose an issue or problem and then create a solution. Exposing faults within the existing government Reagan is able to crack part of the “once believed” solid foundation of the U.S. government. He also exposes how the seediness and greediness of the government is leaking into the minds of other fellow Americans. He states situations where individuals are taking desperate measures such as divorce, in order to earn a higher salary so they can provide for their families. Reagan tells us that there are ways around this and that these issues are not individual but collective.

Reagan uses pathos when he mentions the recent escalation in Vietnam. He said, “As for the peace that we would preserve, I wonder who among us would like to approach the wife or mother whose husband or son has died in South Vietnam and ask them if they think this is a peace that should be maintained indefinitely. Do they mean peace, or do they mean we just want to be left in peace?” Reagan uses this story of the mourning mother and wife to relate the threat of communism to the existence of freedom. He goes on to state “there can be no real peace while one American is dying some place in the world for the rest of us”. Reagan effectively connects our need for an interventionist foreign policy that will challenge communism anywhere it exists in the world in order to achieve peace through an emotional story. The audience will react positively to the emotional story because they can empathetically connect to the struggles of our nation’s military families. Reagan’s use of pathos allows him to connect to his audience. It makes them understand that he has the same concerns about foreign policy as average Americans. “There is no foundation like the rock of honesty and fairness, and when you begin to build your life on that rock, with the cement of the faith in God that you have a real start.” He depicts the image of a man who wants to see his son succeed, something that most parents share.

Reagan uses logos to argue for economic conservatism. Reagan creates a common sense argument about the economic reality of our nation’s fiscal policy through a combination of facts, figures, and reasoning. Reagan uses logos, in order to inform Americans of the injustices set forth by the current government. By stating straight facts and logic such as “We’ve raised our debt limit three times in the last twelve months, and now our national debt is one and a half times bigger than all the combined debts of all the nations of the world.” He states that “our government continues to spend 17 million dollars a day more than the government takes in. We haven’t balanced our budget 28 out of the last 34 years…. and now our national debt is one and a half times bigger than all the combined debts of all the nations of the world”. Through common sense and facts, people clearly acknowledge that our nation’s fiscal policy is unsustainable. Reagan is able to effectively communicate to the American people that the nation is in dire financial straits. Reagan’s focus on the issues makes him seem to the people both logical and intelligent. An effective tool Regan uses to sell his ability is his ethos appeal. It is clear that a main goal of his speech is to portray good character.

With direct description, religious and moral references, or an obvious tone thrown over a moral statement, Regan uses this appeal throughout his speech and he uses it well. A major theme in this speech entertains a concern for the general direction of the nation in terms of foreign affairs. Regan weighs freedom and safety by comparing the liberty of the United States with “the ant heap of totalitarianism”. He does this to paint his democratic opponents in a way that suggests a propensity of weakness. This is as if to say that if elected, his opponents would be more likely to appease than defend against an encroaching threat. While explaining these possibilities, Regan uses an obvious tone of voice to criticize and attach all of the negative aspects he explains to his opponent. This also stands to say that he would never resort to such weakness, thus promoting himself as one of superior character. Another interesting factor to note is that he is trying to build a well perceived character on behalf of another person. Since he is speaking for Barry Goldwater, his speech is intended to be representative of two people in conjunction. He directly boasts legitimacy when he says “I’ve never known a man in my life I believed so incapable of doing a dishonest or dishonorable thing”. This statement speaks directly of Goldwater’s character but also serves as a reflection of his own.

Reagan uses hyperbole to add some humor and laughter to his speech. He begins a personal story in which he explains that “two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of the story one of my friends turned to the other and said, ‘We don’t know how lucky we are.’ And the Cuban stopped and said, ‘How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to.’” The United States surely isn’t the only place the refugee could have escaped to, but Reagan used the story to indicate America ideals and values. People around the world who are not as fortunate as us admire the unique combination and commitment to these values. Another hyperbole Reagan uses is when he said, “government programs, once launched never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth”. Reagan’s humor not only makes people laugh, but makes them think about the expanding size and power of government. Reagan’s use of hyperboles showcase his ability to incorporate humor into serious issues. Humor would become a cornerstone of his oratory style known as the Reagan wit.

Reagan’s speech A Time for Choosing, showed intellect and promise to the people it was also imperative to his own political career. Ronald Reagan was a wonderful person to have given this speech due to his celebrity status, his knowledge of both sides of the political spectrum, and his ability to use different rhetorical appeals to speak to his audience. Reagan was able to use his rhetorical appeals to persuade the audience that the government needed to change in order to better reflect the freedoms and ideals our country was build upon. Where there was a problem he provided a solution, where there was question he gave answer, all of this could be found in one name and I believe he firmly stood by his claim, Barry Goldwater. A Time for Choosing or The Speech will remain powerful and memorable for many years to come. Regan makes a great argument with this speech. He applies several sound appeals to the audience and does so in a skilled manner. By reeling his audience in with a simple logical argument, and then promoting Barry Goldwater as a solution in a common sense manner, he makes it seem as if he is the obvious choice. Although Lyndon B. Johnson won the election, Ronald Regan’s A Time for Choosing did extremely well for the Goldwater campaign and is an excellent example of argumentative rhetoric.

Work Cited
“”A Time for Choosing” by Ronald Reagan – YouTube.” YouTube. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Oct. 2013. .

“American Rhetoric: Ronald Reagan — A Time for Choosing.” American Rhetoric: The Power of Oratory in the United States. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Oct. 2013. .

“United States presidential election of 1964 (United States government) — Encyclopedia Britannica.” Encyclopedia Britannica. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Oct. 2013. .

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