"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! "
- Ronald Reagan, June 12, 1987
Few can forget President Reagan’s visionary and inspirational words as he stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in 1987. But this historic speech was not an isolated event. It was part of a larger, calculated strategy by President Reagan to bring an end to the Cold War, which included numerous diplomatic meetings between President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1982, President Reagan first addressed Berlin where he declared:
"Do Soviet leaders want to be remembered for a prison wall, ringed with barbed wire and with armed guards, whose weapons are aimed at their own civilians? Do they want to conduct themselves in a way that will earn only the contempt of free peoples and distrust of their own citizens?"
The speech at the Brandenburg Gate in 1987 was planned in connection of President Reagan’s already-planned visit to Berlin to mark the 750th anniversary of the city. A memo by Ambassador Richard Burt regarding the President’s speech recommended pushing a bold vision as an antidote to the malaise affecting Germany. The memo suggested that the President’s speech should call for a specific action to back up his words. The Brandenburg Gate– the most powerful symbol of the division of Europe – was chosen as the location for the speech
The Wall came down on November 9, 1989. President Reagan, no longer in office, participated in a live interview with ABC News Anchor Sam Donaldson from Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara, California.
On April 12, 1990, President Ronald Reagan stood next to a 6,338 pound, 9 ½ foot tall piece of the Berlin Wall that had just arrived for display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. With colorful graffiti featuring a large butterfly on its “West” side and the stark grey concrete showing on its “East” side, President Reagan remarked:
“Let our children and grandchildren come here and see this wall and reflect on what it meant to history. Let them understand that only vigilance and strength will deter tyranny.”
Since receiving the Wall, President Reagan’s wish has come true – millions of visitors, including hundreds of thousands of school children, have visited the Wall at the Reagan Library and learned its lesson of freedom and democracy for all.
While visiting the Library, we encourage you to spend some time at the Wall and, as President Reagan requested, reflect on what you think it meant to history.