The "Tear Down this Wall" Speech from President Ronald Reagan is 25 years old this week. In that speech, the president issued a challenge to the Soviet Union, speaking at the Brandenburg Gate. The gate was a strong symbol of the post-war division of Europe, and also was the scene of a speech by John F. Kennedy.
"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."
President Reagan said in German, "Es gibt nur ein Berlin": there is only one Berlin.
The Autonomen (Black Bloc)
Reagan's speech was accompanied by protests, who were demonstrating against U.S. missile defences installed in Europe. The day before, protests against US foreign policy became violent. In 1982, demonstrations against deployment of US nuclear missiles took place as well. The demonstrations had their own autonomen, (today's "black bloc") a group of about 3,000 anti-capitalists, anarchists and communist squatters who built barricades in the street and had a standoff with police for about 24 hours.
Ronald Reagan was well aware of the protests and addressed them toward the end of his speech.
He said, "I wonder if they had ever asked themselves, that if they should have the kind of government they apparently seek, no one would be able to do what they are doing again." This statement was rewarded with loud and exhilarated cheers from the crowd of 40,000 people.
President Reagan said, "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."
As noted in one article,
"Reagan worked to bring all aspects of American statecraft to bear on the ultimate goal of defeating the ideology of communism and the menacing state apparatus that subjugated whole nations in its cause. In all of this, Reagan tapped into a noble tradition of U.S. foreign policy and sought to re-establish America's proper role in the world."
The author noted, "In this, Reagan was squarely at odds with the best foreign policy minds to be had in America, but the experts were wrong. Two years later, the wall came down; the Soviet Union dissolved."
"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. GorbachevÂ—Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
Watch President Reagan's historic speech here: