It was a cool, overcast day on June 12, 1987, when the President, Mrs. Reagan and entourage arrived at the Reichstag. The party entered the building and went to a balcony that had a superb view of the wall and East Berlin. After a brief discussion with members of the White House staff, we departed the Reichstag and moved a short distance to the Brandenburg Gate where the President then made his speech in front of two sections of bulletproof glass. As far as one could see down the main street, approximately 50,000 people had gathered to witness the historical event.
As I understood the political significance at the time, the Brandenburg Gate site was chosen to highlight President Reagan’s conviction that Western democracy offered the best hope to open the Berlin Wall. I do recall some controversy among the White House staff about saying anything that might exacerbate East-West tensions or embarrass Gorbachev. We all know that the President prevailed.
PI consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to be on the dais (second row, dais left) during this historical event. As Agent in Charge of Presidential Protection Division and first responder to any threat situation, the festivities were far removed from my psyche. I was unable to capture the full impact that led up to the President’s final request – “Mr. Gorbachev , open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”.
About two and one-half years later Gorbachev acquiesced and let Berliners destroy the wall. In January 2008, I attended a Presidential Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and as I was touring the library grounds, I observed a large section of the Berlin Wall that provided a flashback to that very special day in June 1987.