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“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Posted by Richard on June 12, 2007

Twenty years ago today, the Great Communicator stood at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and delivered one of the most important speeches of the 20th century. Here's a film clip from YouTube and an excerpt from the speech transcript at the Reagan Foundation:

Our gathering today is being broadcast throughout Western Europe and North America. I understand that it is being seen and heard as well in the East. To those listening throughout Eastern Europe, a special word: Although I cannot be with you, I address my remarks to you just as surely as to those standing here before me. For I join you, as I join your fellow countrymen in the West, in this firm, this unalterable belief: Es gibt nur ein Berlin. [There is only one Berlin.]

Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. From the Baltic, south, those barriers cut across Germany in a gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guard towers. Farther south, there may be no visible, no obvious wall. But there remain armed guards and checkpoints all the same–still a restriction on the right to travel, still an instrument to impose upon ordinary men and women the will of a totalitarian state. Yet it is here in Berlin where the wall emerges most clearly; here, cutting across your city, where the news photo and the television screen have imprinted this brutal division of a continent upon the mind of the world. Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar.

In West Germany and here in Berlin, there took place an economic miracle, the Wirtschaftswunder. Adenauer, Erhard, Reuter, and other leaders understood the practical importance of liberty–that just as truth can flourish only when the journalist is given freedom of speech, so prosperity can come about only when the farmer and businessman enjoy economic freedom. The German leaders reduced tariffs, expanded free trade, lowered taxes. From 1950 to 1960 alone, the standard of living in West Germany and Berlin doubled.

In the 1950s, Khrushchev predicted: "We will bury you." But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind–too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.

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!

PowerLine has speechwriter Peter Robinson's wonderful story of Ingeborg Elz, who gave him the idea for the defining moment of the speech, and of the struggle over the speech. Check it out.

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3 Responses to ““Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!””

  1. mothanskin said

    You put together a really nice piece, RG! Even though President Reagan was a conservative Republican whom I felt was “out of touch” with minorities and their issues, still I liked him. His optimism and his love for America made all of us, whether black or white, feel good about being an American. Your piece did him justice!

  2. Dana said

    Thank you so much for sharing this! Whenever I get frustrated with our politicians, I remind myself that Reagan didn’t serve all that long ago. I wasn’t old enough to vote for him, but I do remember him.

    I was in Berlin not long after the wall came down and again as the Americans were puling out. My friend’s parents cried while they recounted the story of the Berlin airlift and how they felt as the first packages arrived. The two page spread in the paper actually thanked us for the occupation and for the fact that W. Berlin was free because of it.

    Now they riot when our leaders visit.

  3. rgcombs said

    Thanks, Mo, you’re very kind. All I did, really, was pick a few choice paragraphs out of the speech.

    Dana, ”some” Germans riot against the U.S., globalism, capitalism, etc. Buit most do not. Remember, the German people just elected Angela Merkel — she may not be a Reagan or Thatcher, but she’s not an America-hating commie pinko, either. 🙂

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