Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Remembering :The Twenty Year Anniversary Of A Monumental Speech

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the now famous Ronald Reagan speech, where he encouraged Secretary Gorbachev to "tear down this wall". That wall fell later after he was out of office, but the close proximity of the words and the deeds lead many to believe that this one speech was very instrumental in the dream becoming a reality.

Growing up during the Cold War, no one really gave much thought that they'd ever see a reunited Germany, much less the fall of the Iron Curtain. But, Reagan had a vision and wanted to see that vision become reality, to facilitate a brighter hope and future for those that lived under the oppressive Soviet empire and create a more peaceful world.

How much of that came because of him will no doubt be the subject of many debates well into the future. Where a person stands on that issue will depend entirely on the politics of that particular person. But to deny that Reagan played any part in that event, simply denies the reality of the situation.

Here is an interesting article on that speech and how it compares and contrasts with some others.

Also here is a list of 10 interesting facts about some other famous presidential speeches.

5 comments:

ms. miami said...

las- i'm no expert on this bit of history, but i would argue that reagan's contribution is really his administration's escalation of the arms race, which sped up the soviet bloc's internal economic collapse (something that would have happened eventually given the great discrepency between the official and black markets).

imho, i would say that eastern european figures such as pope john paul ii or lech walesa played a greater role than reagan in the realm of inspiration.

Greg said...

Obviously, it was a combination of factors that brought down the wall and the evil empire, but America needed to lead - to be on the right side of argument - for it to succeed. For that reason I actually think people underestimate Reagan's role.

Imagine if that wimp Carter had won. You remember - the guy who said he consulted his 12 year old daughter on nuclear weapons policy? The guy who called Reagan a "reckless hawk." The "human rights crusader" who never said a damned thing while he was President about human rights in the USSR.

I highly recommend a book by famous Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky called "The Case for Democracy." He talks a lot about how constant US support for democracy groups in the USSR was indispensable to the destruction of that awful country. In fact, Sharansky longs for the day when left-wing groups saw America's enemies for what they are and rightly criticized them, instead of siding with them as they do today.

BEING HAD said...

I think an interesting question to ask is, if they had to do it over again, would they still tear down the wall? The intervening years have not been good to the former Soviet Union and despite Russia's current big-money roil, there are no real signs that there is any content amongst the general population. I know that the west likes to believe in what they do, but many pundits are starting to feel as though the democratization argument is loosing the edge it once had. My guess is that if some of that 20-20 hindsight would have been available, Gorbachev would have shaken the man's hands, politely said "no, thank you" and gone home.

LASunsett said...

MsM,

Like Greg says, it was a combination of factors. And without one, it may have been more difficult to achieve, if not entirely impossible.

When Reagan told Gorbachev "nyet", in Iceland, this was when the tables were turned. Gorby knew he couldn't keep pace with the US, therefore he wanted to strip us down, so they could keep up. Dutch would have none of it and I think he showed an enormous amount of guts, to go against what was then the current pacifist's conventional wisdom.

LASunsett said...

BH,

//My guess is that if some of that 20-20 hindsight would have been available, Gorbachev would have shaken the man's hands, politely said "no, thank you" and gone home.//

Which is pretty much what happened. Not until after they began to try to attain the level of defense spending the US was maintaining, did they start to crumble.

The greatest blow in the spending came when Reagan announced the formation of Star Wars weaponry. The Soviets jumped right on it and really went into the hole, trying to keep pace and even beat us to the punch.

When it became apparent that was what was happening in the USSR, Reagan backed off and admitted that the program was going to be too expensive. Talk about one of the greatest bluffs of all time, that was one of them.