25 years ago today: 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!'
Seems like just yesterday we were fighting off Russian invaders in Red Dawn, cautioning against nuclear holocaust in Two Tribes and helping ballet dancers escape to freedom in White Nights. But it was, in fact, exactly 25 years ago this day that U.S. President Ronald Reagan ushered in the end of the Cold War by standing in Berlin and speaking these words:
"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, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
In a world that hadn't yet become overrun with 24-hour news channels, Reagan's speech received little coverage and attention. Reports have it that even his staff was in disagreement on whether the four words were fitting for a president to speak. Even the Soviets weren't impressed; their state-run news agency only calling it an "openly provocative, war-mongering speech."
Twenty-nine months later, the Berlin Wall was opened and Reagan -- by then no longer the president -- would later return to take a few symbolic swings at it with a small hammer.