Twenty years ago today – June 12, 1987.
Take a moment to give thanks for President Ronald Reagan, the man most responsible for freeing eastern Europe from totalitarian rule.
Powerline has an excellent post, including video of the key moment in the speech. Worth your time to read the memories of the speechwriter, Peter Robinson. Robinson visited Berlin a month before Reagan’s planned visit and spoke with Berliners. He was surprised to discover how passionately they still hated the wall – 26 years after it had been built.
Listen carefully to the speech. The same themes were articulated by President Bush in his speech in Prague last week. Here’s a transcript of the full “Tear Down This Wall” speech if you prefer to read it.
Peter Robinson (the speechwriter responsible for the “Tear Down This Wall” speech) wrote a memoir seven years ago, titled It’s My Party: A Republican’s Messy Love Affair with the GOP. Christopher Buckley reviewed it in The Washington Monthly. (Most anything written by Christopher Buckley is worthy reading, btw!)
Here’s Buckley’s summary of what Robinson had to go through to keep the speech’s most famous line from being cut from the speech:
You’ll already have anticipated what happened: the Berlin diplomat, the State Department, the National Security Council, the White House staff all went bananas. Was Peter Robinson crazy? Take it out! Out, out! But he would not take it out. Among other reasons, the Leader of the Free World kind of liked the line.
The incident escalated, with 30-year-old Robinson going toe-to-toe with, among others, National Security Council Director Colin Powell. (It was disappointing to read this.) Finally, Reagan had to say to his chief of staff, Kenneth Duberstein, with a trace of Reaganesque irony, Look here, old shoe, who’s President here? Even skilled White House-hand Duberstein had to back down. Reagan went on to deliver the line. The rest is history.
Thank God for men like Robinson with the patient stubbornness to insist on writing the truth. And thank God for a man like Ronald Reagan who had the courage to speak the truth.
Director, Schaeffer Study Center