Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” Speech

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 12, 2012

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The Cold War may have began the day the Second World War ended, but its greatest battle did not start until the morning of August 13, 1961, when Berliners from both the western and Soviet sectors awoke to find their city divided by a barbed wire barrier – soon to become a concrete wall 16 feet high and some 96 miles long – which, for the next 28 years, would virtually imprison those unlucky enough to be on the Eastern side of the divide. President Kennedy, in 1963, came to Berlin and declared that, as a free man, he too was a Berliner (“Ich bin ein Berliner”) and some two dozen years later, Ronald Reagan spoke at the same spot, there to famously challenge the Soviet empire to tear down the Berlin Wall – the ultimate symbol of communist oppression. 25 years later, we recall, and celebrate, what he said there…

On Friday, June 12, 1987, Ronald Reagan, standing in front of the Berlin Wall that divided Germany into free and communist sectors, spoke 2,703 words, of which four will forever be identified with his legacy. “Mr. Gorbachev,” he demanded,

“Tear down this wall!”

These are words that Reagan had been saying, in one form or another, ever since he first spoke out against communist tyranny in 1946. He was just an actor then, and politically, nothing more than a Board Alternate in the Screen Actors Guild. And, far from being a right-winger, his name still endorsed causes listed in the People’s Daily World. But when Reagan got up that night in 1946, and spoke for forty minutes, he made a startling discovery. Denouncing fascism, he was cheered – twenty times, he recalled. Yet a single solitary paragraph condemning communism, hastily tagged on to the end, met with stony silence. Both fascism and communism, he felt, were totalitarian evils – why the hero for castigating one, and the goat, for the other? In Hollywood, it seemed, only fascism was wrong. That was when he stopped talking, he said, and started thinking. He became an anti-communist progressive, then a Truman Democrat; an Eisenhower Republican, then a Goldwater Republican and finally, the triumphant leader of the conservative movement. What didn’t change, however, for a nanosecond, was his conviction that communism was a sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages were ever being written. Reagan’s persistence in this belief, and his tireless work to effect the end of what he famously dubbed “the Evil Empire”, was the keystone of his career – and the reason for Mr. Gorbachev, ultimately, tearing down that wall.

Signed Photos of President Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate, inscribed with his clarion call to “Tear Down This Wall!” are, it is noted, of very great rarity.

RONALD REAGAN. 1911-2004. The 40th President of the United States.

Signed Photo, small oblong octavo, depicting the President speaking before the Brandenburg Gate at the Berlin Wall in June 1987; inscribed “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!” Very rare.

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