Tuesday, June 12, 2007
On this day:

Tear down this wall!

Twenty years ago today, President Ronald Reagan issued a challenge that would become among the most memorable moments of the Twentieth Century. Here's President Reagan's recollection of that day from An American Life, his autobiography:
In early June 1987, after the economic summit in Venice, Nancy and I flew to West Berlin where we were reminded again of the vast gulf between our system and that of the Communists. I was reminded of the Marshall Plan and how America spent billions after World War II helping rebuild the shattered economies of Europe, including those of two of our former enemies, and I wondered what other nation on earth would have done that. I saw an exhibit honoring the courageous pilots - three of whom I met - who had kept the city alive during the Berlin Airlift. And then I saw the Berlin Wall, as stark a symbol as anyone could ever expect to see of the contrast between two different political systems; on one side, people held captive by a failed and corrupt totalitarian government, on the other, freedom, enterprise, prosperity.

I had accepted an invitation to speak to an outdoor gathering at the Brandenburg Gate at the dividing line between West Berlin and East Berlin. Before it was my turn to speak, I met with my West German hosts in a government building not far from the wall. From the window, I could see the graffiti and prodemocracy slogans scrawled on liberty's side of the wall and, across the wall, a government building in East Berlin where I was told there was long-distance monitoring apparatus that could eavesdrop on our conversations.

"Watch what you say," one German official said. Well, when I heard that, I went out to a landing that was even closer to the building and began sounding off about what I thought of a government that penned in its people like farm animals.

I can't remember exactly what I said, but I may have used a little profanity in expressing my opinion of Communism, hoping I would be heard. ...

From this building, we went to the Brandenburg Gate, where tens of thousands of Berliners were gathered.
Minutes later, Reagan delivered the shot that would be heard around the world.
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!
And what a proud moment it was.

Earlier today in Washington, D.C., a memorial was dedicated in honor of the millions of people who suffered and are still suffering under communist tyranny. That today's ceremony was held on the 20th anniversary of President Reagan's speech at the Berlin Wall is a fitting tribute to the man who came into the office as a Great Communicator and is now known to millions around the world as the Great Liberator.

(The full text of President Reagan's 1987 speech at the Brandenburg Gate is available here. A YouTube excerpt is below.)