“Rendezvous with destiny” was a phrase used by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936 when he accepted the Democratic nomination to run again for the presidency.
FDR gave a rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention; it culminated in a call to Americans to stand together against tyranny. The speech concluded:
This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.
In this world of our in other lands, there are some people, who, in times past, have lived and fought for freedom, and seem to have grown too weary to carry on the fight. They have sold their heritage of freedom for the illusion of a living. They have yielded their democracy.
I believe in my heart that only our success can stir their ancient hope. They begin to know that here in America we are waging a great and successful war. It is not alone a war against want and destitution and economic demoralization. It is more than that; it is a war for the survival of democracy. We are fighting to save a great and precious form of government for ourselves and for the world.
I accept the commission you have tendered me. I join with you. I am enlisted for the duration of the war.”
Decades later, Ronald Reagan gave his own speech about a rendezvous with destiny. Reagan made the speech, known as A Time for Choosing, in support of Barry Goldwater, who was running for president in 1964. Reagan referred to the speech simply as “the speech;” his read it on TV as part of a program called Rendezvous with Destiny. Although Goldwater lost badly, the speech may have launched Reagan’s political career, helping him to run for governor of California and eventually for the presidency.
The speech explained why Reagan had switched from the Democratic party and what his political views were; Reagan spoke about the importance of small government and explained why he saw the particular moment as so pivotal. The speech concluded,
You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.
We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.
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.
Today, the phrase “rendezvous with destiny” is used whenever a political leader faces a particularly tough challenge or a defining moment. The Nation, for example, wrote that the New Cold War was President Obama’s rendezvous with destiny. Similarly, President Trump’s meeting with his Israeli counterpart was referred to as their rendezvous with destiny.
The phrase has been used so often that some people are even granted a second rendezvous with destiny. That, at least, is what happened to Hillary Clinton, when she ran for president the second time.
As one writer put it, “Hillary Clinton began her second ‘rendezvous with destiny’ with a promise to make new policies designed to benefit the middle class if she is elected America’s first woman president.”