First, let’s go back 40 years and consider Ronald Reagan’s speech at the 1976 Republican National Convention:
Thank you very much. Mr. President, Mrs. Ford, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Vice President to be — the distinguished guests here, and you ladies and gentlemen: I am going to say fellow Republicans here, but also those who are watching from a distance, all of those millions of Democrats and Independents who I know are looking for a cause around which to rally and which I believe we can give them.
Mr. President, before you arrived tonight, these wonderful people here when we came in gave Nancy and myself a welcome. That, plus this, and plus your kindness and generosity in honoring us by bringing us down here will give us a memory that will live in our hearts forever.
Watching on television these last few nights, and I have seen you also with the warmth that you greeted Nancy, and you also filled my heart with joy when you did that.
May I just say some words. There are cynics who say that a party platform is something that no one bothers to read and it doesn’t very often amount to much.
Whether it is different this time than it has ever been before, I believe the Republican Party has a platform that is a banner of bold, unmistakable colors, with no pastel shades.
We have just heard a call to arms based on that platform, and a call to us to really be successful in communicating and reveal to the American people the difference between this platform and the platform of the opposing party, which is nothing but a revamp and a reissue and a running of a late, late show of the thing that we have been hearing from them for the last 40 years.
If I could just take a moment; I had an assignment the other day. Someone asked me to write a letter for a time capsule that is going to be opened in Los Angeles a hundred years from now, on our Tricentennial.
It sounded like an easy assignment. They suggested I write something about the problems and the issues today. I set out to do so, riding down the coast in an automobile, looking at the blue Pacific out on one side and the Santa Ynez Mountains on the other, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was going to be that beautiful a hundred years from now as it was on that summer day.
Then as I tried to write — let your own minds turn to that task. You are going to write for people a hundred years from now, who know all about us. We know nothing about them. We don’t know what kind of a world they will be living in.
And suddenly I thought to myself if I write of the problems, they will be the domestic problems the President spoke of here tonight; the challenges confronting us, the erosion of freedom that has taken place under Democratic rule in this country, the invasion of private rights, the controls and restrictions on the vitality of the great free economy that we enjoy. These are our challenges that we must meet.
And then again there is that challenge of which he spoke that we live in a world in which the great powers have poised and aimed at each other horrible missiles of destruction, nuclear weapons that can in a matter of minutes arrive at each other’s country and destroy, virtually, the civilized world we live in.
And suddenly it dawned on me, those who would read this letter a hundred years from now will know whether those missiles were fired. They will know whether we met our challenge. Whether they have the freedoms that we have known up until now will depend on what we do here.
Will they look back with appreciation and say, “Thank God for those people in 1976 who headed off that loss of freedom, who kept us now 100 years later free, who kept our world from nuclear destruction”?
And if we failed, they probably won’t get to read the letter at all because it spoke of individual freedom, and they won’t be allowed to talk of that or read of it.
This is our challenge; and this is why here in this hall tonight, better than we have ever done before, we have got to quit talking to each other and about each other and go out and communicate to the world that we may be fewer in numbers than we have ever been, but we carry the message they are waiting for.
We must go forth from here united, determined that what a great general said a few years ago is true: There is no substitute for victory, Mr. President.
Next, let’s consider Ted Cruz’s speech to the 1996 Republican National Convention:
Thank you, and god bless each and every one of you.
Heidi and I are so honored to join you here in Cleveland where LeBron James just lead an incredible comeback victory, and I am convinced America is going to come back too.
I want to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night.
And, like each of you, I want to see the principles that our party believes prevail in November.
Conventions are times of excitement, but given the events of the last few weeks I hope you’ll allow me a moment to talk to you about what’s really at stake. Just two weeks ago a nine-year-old girl named Caroline was living a carefree Texas summer. Swimming in the pool, playing with friends, doing all the things a happy child might do. Like most children, she relied upon the love that she received from her mom, Heidi, and her dad, a police sergeant named Michael Smith.
That is until he became one of the five police officers gunned down in Dallas.
The day her father was murdered, Caroline gave him a hug and a kiss as he left for work, but as they parted her dad asked her something he hadn’t asked before. “What if this is the last time you ever kiss or hug me?”
Later, as she thought of her fallen father, and that last heart breaking hug, Caroline broke down into tears. How could anything ever be OK again? Michael Smith was a former Army Ranger who spent decades with the Dallas police department. I have no idea who he voted for in the last election, or what he thought about this once, but his life was a testament to devotion.
He protected the very protesters who mocked him because he loved his country, and his fellow man. His work gave new meaning to that line from literature, “To die of love is to live by it.”
As I thought about what I wanted to say tonight, Michael Smith’s story weighed on my heart. Maybe That’s because his daughter Caroline is about the same age as my eldest daughter, and happens to share the same name. Maybe it’s because I saw a video of that dear, sweet child choking back sobs as she remembered her Daddy’s last question to her.
Maybe it’s because we live in a world where so many others have had their lives destroyed by evil in places like Orlando, and Paris, and Nice, and Baton Rouge. Maybe it’s because of the simple question itself. What if this right now is our last time? Our last moment to do something for our families, and our country? Did we live up to the values we say we believe? Did we do all we really could?
That’s really what elections should be about. That’s why you and millions like you devoted so much time and sacrifice to this campaign. We’re fighting not for one particular candidate, or one campaign, but because each of wants to be able to tell our kids and grandkids, our own Caroline’s, that we did our best for their future and our country.
America is more than just a land mass between two oceans, America is an ideal. A simple, yet powerful ideal. Freedom matters.
For much of human history government power has been the unavoidable constant in life. Government decrees and the people obey, but not here. We have no king or queen, we have no dictator, we the people constrain government.
Our nation is exceptional because it was built on the five most beautiful and powerful words in the English language, “I want to be free.”
Never has that message been more needed than today. We stand here tonight a nation divided. Partisan rancor, anger, even hatred are tearing America apart. And citizens are furious, rightly furious, at a political establishment that cynically breaks its promises, and that ignores the will of the people.
We have to do better. We owe our fallen heroes more than that.
Now, of course, Obama and Clinton will also tell you that they care about our children’s future, and I want to believe them but there is a profound difference about our two party’s vision for the future.
There’s is the part that thinks ISIS is a J.V. team, that responds to the death of Americans in Benghazi, “What difference does it make?” And, that thinks it’s possible to make a deal with Iran that celebrates its holidays, “Death to America Day,” and, “Death to Israel Day.”
My friends, this is madness. President Obama is a man who does everything backwards. He wants to close Guantanamo Bay, and open up our borders. He exports jobs, and imports terrorists. Enough is enough.
And, I am here to tell you there is a better vision for our future. A return to freedom.
On education your freedom to choose your child’s education, even if you aren’t as rich as Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.
On healthcare, your freedom to choose your own doctor without Obamacare.
On taxes, your freedom to provide for your family without the IRS beating down your door.
The Internet? Keep it free from taxes, free from regulation and don’t give it away to Russia and China.
Freedom means free speech, not politically correct safe spaces.
Freedom means religious freedom, whether you are Christian, Jew, Muslim, or atheist.
Whether you are gay, or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us to live according to our conscience.
Freedom means the right to keep and bear arms, and to protect your family.
Freedom means that every human life is precious and must be protected.
Freedom means Supreme Court Justices who don’t dictate policy, but instead follow the Constitution.
And, freedom means recognizing that our Constitution allows states to choose policies that reflect local values. Colorado might decide something different than Texas. New York different than Iowa. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, diversity.
If not, what’s the point of having states to begin with?
Now, Hillary Clinton believes that government should make virtually every choice in your life. Education, health care, marriage, speech, all dictated out of Washington. But, something powerful is happening, we’ve seen it in both parties, we’ve seen it in the United Kingdom’s unprecedented Brexit vote to leave the European Union.
Voters are overwhelmingly rejecting the political establishment, and overwhelmingly rejecting big government.
That is a profound victory and it is one earned by each and every one of you. People are fed up with politicians who don’t listen to them. Fed up with a corrupt system that benefits the elites instead of working men and women.
We deserve an immigration system that puts America first, and yes, builds a wall to keep America safe.
A government that stops admitting ISIS terrorists as refugees. We deserve trade policies that put the interests of American farmers over the interests that are funding the lobbyists.
And, if we stand together and choose freedom, our future will be brighter. Freedom will bring back jobs and raise wages. Freedom will lift people out of dependency to the dignity of work.
We can do this. Forty-Seven years ago to this day, America put the very first man on the moon.
That was the power of freedom. Our party, the Republican party, was founded to defeat slavery.
Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Together we passed the Civil Rights Act, and together we fought to eliminate Jim Crow Laws.
That’s our collective legacy, although the media will never share it with you. Those were fights for freedom, and so is this.
Sergeant Michael Smith stood up to protect our freedom. So do the soldiers, and sailors, and airmen, and Marines everyday fighting radical Islamic terrorism.
And, so did the family of Alton Sterling who bravely called to end the violence. So did the families of those murdered at the Charleston-Emanuel AME Church who forgave that hateful, bigoted, murder.
And, so can we. We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect from everybody. And, to those listening, please don’t stay home in November.
If you love our country, and love our children as much as you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom, and to be faithful to the constitution.
I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation.
And I will tell you that it is love of freedom that has allowed millions to achieve their dreams. Like my mom, the first in her family to go to college, and my dad, who’s here tonight, who fled prison and torture in Cuba. Coming to Texas with just $100 dollars sewn into his underwear.
And it is over that I hope will bring comfort to a grieving nine- year-old girl in Dallas, and God willing, propel her to move forward, and dream, and soar, and make her daddy proud. We must make the most of our moments, to fight for freedom, to protect our God given rights, even if those with whom we don’t agree so that when we are old and grey, and when our work is done, and when we give those we love one final kiss goodbye we will be able to say freedom matters and I was part of something beautiful.
The case we have to make to the American people, the case each person in this room has to make to the American people is to commit to each of them that we will defend freedom, and be faithful to the Constitution.
We will unite the party; we will unite the country by standing together for shared values by standing for liberty. God bless each and every one of you, and God bless the United States of America.
- Neither man specifically endorsed a nominee during their speech.
- Reagan did, however, speak directly about President Ford a couple of times, and in pretty gracious terms.
- Cruz congratulated Trump on winning the nomination, and then gave a pretty decent stump speech.
- Neither man said anything directly bad about the man to whom they lost the nomination.
- Reagan was speaking, ostensibly, off the cuff after being invited to speak by President Ford.
- Cruz gave a prepared speech, which was provided to the Trump campaign earlier that day.
- Ford lost to Jimmy Carter, although I’d attribute that more to lingering anger over Watergate and Ford’s pardon of Nixon to any speech that Reagan gave.
- It is still unknown what impact, if any, Cruz’s non-endorsement will have on the 2016 race.