Mr. Gorbachev's wall came tumbling down

  • 5 February 2018
  • NormanL

Today is an unusual anniversary: the Berlin Wall has been gone from the landscape for exactly the same amount of time (28 years) that it divided east and west Berlin. For those who are too young to recall when the West and the Soviet bloc stared at one another through razor wire and gun emplacements, the whole episode seems surreal. That's especialy true because the Berlin that exists today is a vibrant, expansive cultural center -- much like it was before both Nazism and Communism tore it apart.

In honor of this unique moment in time, it's worth recalling Ronald Reagn's 1987 speech delivered in front of the Brandenburg Gate (with an East German security post in the background). It's a reminder both of the preciousness of freedom, and the power a president has to give hope to those suffering under the yoke of tyrants. Here is an excerpt of that speech:

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!

Twenty-eight years later, that wall is gone, broken into small pieces sold for a few dollars to tourists. A fitting, capitalist end to a deadly barrier erected in collectivist hate and haste.