I had the pleasure of being the lead Advance in charge of the Berlin. Our team spent over three weeks preparing for the President’s visit. I remember on the pre-advance we went onto the balcony of the Reichstag and peered over the Wall. There was a desire by the President to look into East Berlin; beyond the barbed wire, dogs and the Wall, to dramatize the difference between freedom and repression. We negotiated with the Secret Service and discussed the type of bullet proof glass that would be necessary to ensure the President’s safety.
The main event was the President’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate. We designed the stage with a glass backdrop so the Wall could be seen. With a couple of days to go, it was clear that the East Germans were becoming uncomfortable. During the late afternoons, hundreds, if not thousands, of young people could be seen in East Berlin trying to get a peek at what was going to happen. The East Germans placed large speakers to drown out the sound of our event – at least on their side of the wall.
As I remember it, we had a crowd of 20,000 or more. The President was in top form as he delivered his famous words: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”. I remember looking up and noticing how Chancellor Helmut Kohl seemed to be taking great delight in the reception being given to the President’s remarks.