|The earliest reference I found in The Times was a July 7, 1963, story which noted that Reagan was to deliver an address titled “A Time for Choosing” to local Realtors at the Long Beach Arena.
A March 16, 1964, item said that Reagan would give “A Time for Choosing” at a meeting of the San Marino Republican Women’s Club. And on Aug. 5, 1964, Reagan gave “A Time for Choosing” at the Sunset Young Republican Club, which was meeting at the Smith Bros. Fish Shanty in Beverly Hills. Although we must assume the speech had not yet assumed its final form, none of these Reagan appearances resulted in a story in The Times.
Looking beyond The Times’ clips, a search of Google’s news archive shows that according to the Deseret News and Telegram, Reagan delivered a speech referring to “a time for choosing” to a convention of the American National Cattlemen’s Assn. in January 1963 and a speech by Reagan bearing that title was published in the Savings and Loan Annals of 1963.
All of this would firmly establish that Reagan began formulating this speech in the John F. Kennedy era rather than the Lyndon Johnson administration. This should not come as a complete surprise as Reagan, although a Democrat, supported Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential race (The Times, Nov. 4, 1960).
When Reagan stepped before the camera to deliver “A Time for Choosing,” the polls showed Johnson holding a strong lead over Goldwater (a post-election poll found that Republican voters considered Goldwater “as much a radical as a genuine conservative”).
The Times TV section for the week of Oct. 25, 1964, was more focused on Mr. Magoo’s Halloween than on what was to become Reagan’s legendary speech. Indeed, the Sunday listings show that the time slot was originally scheduled for “That Was the Week That Was,” or TW3, a satire on the week’s events from the BBC featuring David Frost.
But late on Monday, Oct. 26, KNBC-TV Channel 4 announced that the show was being preempted by a half-hour political ad for the Goldwater campaign: “A Time for Choosing” by Ronald Reagan.
The day after the address was broadcast, Reagan went back to his regular life, scheduled for an appearance at the West Coast premiere of “My Fair Lady” and hosting “Death Valley Days,” a TV show about tales of the old West sponsored by Boraxo, a soap company.
The only recognition in The Times of Reagan’s televised speech was by Hedda Hopper, who mentioned it near the end of her column on Oct. 30, 1964.
On Nov. 3, 1964, Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater lost in a landslide. Despite the prevailing gloom, Reagan found a reason to be optimistic: “Sure, we didn’t expect this … but take a look at the figure on our side and remember every one (vote) represents a conservative we didn’t have when we started out.”
Reagan said shortly after the election that his experience with the Goldwater campaign had not whetted his appetite for public office. Running as a Republican candidate “has never appealed to me,” he said. Asked if he could spurn a strong Republican request to run, Reagan replied, “I hope I could turn it down.”
“A Time for Choosing” from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
“A Time for Choosing” was published as a pamphlet in 1964. Worldcat lists it as being in two libraries.