Today's Washington Times has stories that remind us of how much the world has changed in the past 20 years.
This week marks the 20th Anniversary of Ronald Reagan's famous Brandenburg Gate speech where he implored Gorbachev to "tear down this wall." My friend and Dartmouth board colleague Peter Robinson penned that speech, and the Times recounts the story behind it here:
His 1987 speech at the Brandenburg Gate, invoking the name of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, was destined to become his most famous. A little more than two years later, in November 1989, the Berlin Wall was torn down -- not by Mr. Gorbachev, but by the German people -- dramatically symbolizing the collapse of communism. Yet the speech's most famous phrase nearly didn't make it into the final draft. Mr. Robinson, then a 31-year-old in his first full-time job, had been inspired by an earlier visit to West Berlin. There, he met with a group of residents, including Ingeborg Elz, who spoke bitterly of Mr. Gorbachev's promises of "glasnost," or openness, and "perestroika," or reform. "If this man Gorbachev is serious with his talk of glasnost and perestroika, he can prove it," Mrs. Elz told Mr. Robinson. "He can get rid of this wall." As he recalled in his 2003 book, "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life," Mr. Robinson decided to include that demand in the Berlin speech Mr. Reagan was due to deliver in June. The president liked the idea. The State Department and the NSC, however, disapproved. Among those who urged Mr. Robinson to omit "tear down this wall" from the speech were Secretary of State George Schultz, White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker, and Colin L. Powell, who was deputy national security adviser at the time. But Mr. Robinson argued in favor of keeping the phrase, and Mr. Reagan agreed.
Peter recounts the full story and Reagan's determination to keep it in, finally asking the diplomats, "I'm the President, right?" After receiving an affirmative answer he declared, "Ok, it stays in." By the way, I recommend Peter's book highly--fun, insightful, and of course, marvelously written.
A video of the speech is available here.
In somewhat related news, the Times reports that the French Communist Party is on the verge of bankruptcy after being massacred in the recent presidential elections, receiving less than 2% of the votes and expecting to retain only 4 of its 21 seats in the parliament in yesterday's elections. Au revoir.
Twenty years ago I would've never predicted such a thorough rout of Communism.