Passport

20 years ago today…

… President Ronald Reagan stood at Berlin’s Brandenberg Gate and challenged Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to end the tyranny of communism in Europe. 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 ...

… President Ronald Reagan stood at Berlin’s Brandenberg Gate and challenged Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to end the tyranny of communism in Europe.

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….

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!

I’ve always admired the line not because it is Reagan’s most famous. But because it took guts to deliver it.

It’s easy to slam Reagan. But it’s worth remembering that he was criticized even before this speech for being a naive optimist. No sane foreign policy thinker expected the Wall to actually come down a couple years later. In fact, the State Department tried to have the line stricken from Reagan’s remarks. Even Colin Powell, then deputy national security advisor, was against it. But Reagan was insistent, and the line penned by 31 year-old staffer Peter Robinson stayed in the speech. At a time when political cynicism is running deep, it’s an important reminder that strong presidential conviction can sometimes make our world a better place.

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