Classroom Activities

  1. Read the first paragraph of Goldwater’s “Acceptance Address.” Formal political speeches almost always begin by mentioning dignitaries and spouses who are present, as well as the larger public audience. What persuasive function does this practice serve? Who does Goldwater mention in his introduction, and why do you think he mentions these particular people?
  2. Goldwater’s speech is full of repetition. Some of it is accidental and some deliberate. In Goldwater’s case, what impression does this repetition likely make for various audiences?
  3. Identify the major metaphors in Goldwater’s speech. How do these metaphors support or illustrate his policy and value arguments?
  4. Summarize the major reasons Goldwater gives for why the United States needs a Republican administration.
  5. Identify historical examples or people that Goldwater employs. How does he use these examples to support his arguments?
  6. Do you agree with the contention that the form of Goldwater’s speech resembled a standard acceptance speech, while the function of the oration attempted to coalesce a conservative social movement? Why or why not?
  7. Despite the fact that Goldwater’s speech was not well designed to win the majority of votes in a presidential election, make a list of rhetorical strategies and techniques that were appropriate for the acceptance-speech genre.
  8. Identify places in Goldwater’s speech in which he uses the term “diversity.” What did he mean by this word? How is the term “diversity” understood in today’s context?
  9. Read paragraphs 42-43. Explain how the goal of individual freedom exists in tension with the public good in Goldwater’s speech.
  10. View the video recording of Goldwater’s speech and evaluate his oral delivery. (Find this recording under Additional Resources, Audio-Visual Materials.) What impression does Goldwater create through his gestures, vocal quality, rate, expressiveness, etc.?
  11. Goldwater clearly condemns communism in his 1964 “Acceptance Speech.” What are the main harms of communism, according to the senator from Arizona?

Student Research

  1. Read paragraphs 34-39, in which Goldwater discusses his goal of fostering an “Atlantic Civilization.” What does he mean by this term? Was this ever a realistic goal for the United States in 1964? In your opinion, would establishing an “Atlantic Civilization” today be a wise strategic choice, given the current geopolitical situation?
  2. Goldwater addresses the Vietnam War in paragraphs 27-28. Based on your own research, was Goldwater fair in his 1964 assessment of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia?
  3. Later in Goldwater’s career as a senator, he criticized the Republican Party for opposing the participation of non-heterosexuals in the military. As he stated in 1993, “There is no place in this country for practicing religion in politics. That goes for Falwell, Robertson and all the rest of those political preachers” ( In your opinion, did Goldwater change his political philosophy, or was he basically consistent throughout his political career?
  4. In the 1964 election, President Lyndon B. Johnson clearly had the more effective political message. Compare the videos of Goldwater’s speech with LBJ’s acceptance speech of 1964 (located under Additional Resources, Audio-Visual Materials). Identify the strengths and weaknesses of each speaker. Which message is best adapted to the events of the day? Who has the better delivery? Who projects a more pleasing personality? Overall, does this speech comparison help explain why Johnson won the election overwhelmingly?
  5. Many political commentators contend that, while Goldwater failed as a presidential candidate in 1964, he paved the way for the success of more conservative candidates in the future. Ronald Reagan is frequently mentioned as the main beneficiary of Goldwater’s efforts. Compare and contrast the videos of Goldwater’s “Acceptance Speech” with Reagan’s 1980 acceptance speech. Identify the ideological similarities between the two. How are they similar? In what ways are they different? (See Additional Resources, Audio-Visual Materials.)
  6. Some political analysts have claimed that in 2016, Donald Trump appealed to segments of the population that felt marginalized, disrespected, or out of step with contemporary values and mores. Do you think that Goldwater did the same thing in 1964? Compare and contrast the Goldwater and Trump acceptance speeches. Are there ideological similarities? What are the differences? Which one is best adapted to the events of the day? Who has the better delivery? Who projects a more pleasing personality? (See Additional Resources, Audio-Visual Materials.)

Citizenship Resources

  1. One of the most enduring sources of political controversy in the United States is the tension between a strong national government and the powers and independence of state and local governments. What is Goldwater’s position on this issue? (See paragraphs 21 and 47 of the speech text.) Do you agree with Goldwater? Why or why not?
  2. In Goldwater’s mind, good character brought about good policies and outcomes. To Goldwater, citizens must be honest, sincere, and morally upright (paragraph 13). In addition, Goldwater valued freedom above all other civic values. This freedom should be limited only “by the laws of nature and of nature’s God” (paragraphs 6, 18). In your opinion, how important is the personal morality and/or faith of citizens to the effective and just functioning of government?
  3. In 1964, Goldwater attacked the policies, characters, and personal philosophies of Democrats and liberal Republicans, and his infamous statement about “extremism” invited an equally harsh response from his political opponents. One of the most controversial negative responses from the Democratic Party came on September 7, 1964, when “a 60-second TV ad changed American politics forever.” A 3-year-old girl in a simple dress counted as she plucked daisy petals in a sun-dappled field. Her words were supplanted by a mission-control countdown followed by a massive nuclear blast in a classic mushroom shape. View the “Daisy Girl,” ad, as well as an informative panel discussion of the ad, here: After viewing the ad, research these questions: Was this ad ethical? How was it received at the time? Should there be limits on what can be said in political advertising, and, if so, what should those limits be?