President Ronald Reagan gave this speech at the Brandenburg Gate twenty years ago on June 12, 1987:
The Reagan Foundation has the entire text of the speech, Tear Down This Wall.
Here’s the part that Pres. Reagan reads in the video clip:
And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control.
Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
I understand the fear of war and the pain of division that afflict this continent– and I pledge to you my country’s efforts to help overcome these burdens. To be sure, we in the West must resist Soviet expansion. So we must maintain defenses of unassailable strength. Yet we seek peace; so we must strive to reduce arms on both sides.
Beginning 10 years ago, the Soviets challenged the Western alliance with a grave new threat, hundreds of new and more deadly SS-20 nuclear missiles, capable of striking every capital in Europe. The Western alliance responded by committing itself to a counter-deployment unless the Soviets agreed to negotiate a better solution; namely, the elimination of such weapons on both sides. For many months, the Soviets refused to bargain in earnestness. As the alliance, in turn, prepared to go forward with its counter-deployment, there were difficult days–days of protests like those during my 1982 visit to this city–and the Soviets later walked away from the table.
But through it all, the alliance held firm. And I invite those who protested then– I invite those who protest today–to mark this fact: Because we remained strong, the Soviets came back to the table.
The Victims of Communism Memorial is being dedicated today in Washington:
The Victims of Communism Memorial will be dedicated on Tuesday morning, June 12, 2007, in Washington, D.C. Rep. Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will give the keynote address while Rep. Dana Rohrabacher will deliver remarks. President George W. Bush has also been invited to speak. A crowd of 1,000 including Congressional leaders, members of the diplomatic corps, ethnic leaders, foreign dignitaries, and Memorial supporters, is expected to attend the historic event.
John Fund writes about the Memorial:
The memorial is a 10-foot bronze replica of the “Goddess of Liberty” statue, which Chinese dissidents erected in Tiananmen Square before tanks crushed both it and their movement in 1989. The statue’s inscriptions will both mourn the “more than 100 million victims of Communism” and call for the freedom of “all captive nations and peoples.” Marking the bipartisan nature of the U.S. effort during the Cold War, the site on Capitol Hill was donated through a bill signed by President Clinton, and the keynote address will be made by Democrat Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a native of Hungary who escaped the Holocaust thanks to Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.
Fund also writes about Pres. Reagan, (emphasis added)
Reagan first saw the Berlin Wall in 1978, when he told his aide Peter Hannaford, “We’ve got to find a way to knock this thing down.” After Reagan became president, he returned in 1982 and enraged the Soviets by taking a couple of ceremonial steps across a painted border line. Then, in 1987, he overruled his own State Department by giving the momentous speech in which he implored the general secretary directly to tear down the wall.
Reagan liked to refer in his speeches to the “tide of history,” and that idea must have been on Mr. Gorbachev’s mind two years later when he visited East Berlin and informed the comrades there that they needed to change. He told reporters who asked about the wall, “Dangers await only those who do not react to life.” The signal was sent that Moscow would no longer prop up a corrupt system.
The Berlin Wall’s fall was both a vindication of the West’s refusal to kowtow to the Soviets and a tribute to the spirit of dissenters behind the Iron Curtain. Today pieces of the wall exist as mere souvenirs on mantelpieces. Sadly, today Russia itself is slipping back into authoritarianism.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Russia has resisted efforts to erect memorials about the communist era. In 2005, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s autocratic president, let slip in a speech that “the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Under Mr. Putin’s leadership, Russian officials are conspicuously re-creating some of the institutions of oppression. Their frosty silence about three-quarters of a century of communist oppression does not augur well for Russia’s future.
In the news last Saturday, Russia warns US on missile plan. Here’s a BBC video report. Today Russia celebrates itself with Kremlin awards ceremony on Day of Russia:
The June 12 holiday is one of several that have been shifted or renamed as Putin’s Kremlin seeks to shape Russians’ perception of their country and its history.
It was introduced by Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, to commemorate Russian lawmakers’ 1990 declaration of sovereignty and was long known to most Russians as Independence Day. However, millions of Russians regret the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union _ which was dominated by Russia _ and blame Yeltsin for its disintegration.
That means there is little political capital to be captured from celebrating Russia’s independence, and the holiday’s name was officially changed to the Day of Russia in 2002, under Putin.
Via Real Clear Politics, The Speech That Brought Down a Wall and Seizing the Moment
Memorable presidential speeches are few and far between. But Ronald Reagan’s words in Berlin two decades ago will live on
Others blogging about it:
Betsy posts about a book, whose author, Robert Service, asks, Communism destroyed millions of lives, but its critics are now branded “neocons”. Why has the left’s poisoned love affair with it endured?