October 27, 1964. Fifty years ago. It was a Tuesday night, one week from election day. As the Johnson-Goldwater campaign wound to its end, with Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society liberalism he was championing poised to win in a landslide over GOP nominee Senator Barry Goldwater, Americans turned on their television sets to see one last political commercial. They quickly discovered a very familiar face in a very unfamiliar setting.
Actor Ronald Reagan, longtime movie and TV star, newly the host and occasional star of Death Valley Days, a weekly TV series based on the old West, was introduced by an off-screen voice for a “thoughtful address” sponsored by the Goldwater campaign. Suddenly, there was actor Reagan (here) standing behind a bunting-draped podium in front of a live audience. Within seconds, Reagan was on his way to changing American history. He began as follows: