On this day in 1987, President Ronald Reagan spoke in West Berlin during the Cold War. With the Berlin Wall looming high behind him, he spoke enlightened and powerful words to a crowd listening eagerly. He spoke of a dream that was spreading all throughout Western Europe and the need for this dream in the east.
The Berlin Wall was the essence of the Cold War. East Germany wanted to keep out the West’s capitalist influences on their socialist state. On August 12, 1961, 2,400 East Berliners fled to the west. The most that had ever escaped in one single day. This caused the East’s leader, Premier Khrushchev, to give the order to close the borders for good. No longer allowed to freely cross from east to west, escape was rare, but not impossible. People became so desperate to cross the wall some escaped by climbing the barbed wire, hot-air balloons, crawling through sewers, and even driving into some parts of the wall at incredibly high speeds. 171 people were killed trying so desperately to escape the failure that was East Berlin.
Although his speech was a shining beacon of hope to those affected, the severity of the wall and all it stood for was not lost on Reagan as he spoke. He expressed an understanding of the success of economic freedom among the people. “In West Germany and here in Berlin…leaders understood the practical importance of liberty—that just as truth can flourish only when the journalist is given freedom of speech, so prosperity can come about only when the farmer and businessman enjoy economic freedom.” These ideals are still true today. Where there is economic freedom there is individual and collective prosperity.
He goes on to say even though the Communist leaders threatened to bury the West and their way of life, thWestst has prevailed while they have failed. “In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind—too little food.”
Reagan’s words merit remembrance. While the Cold War is over, we must remember the inevitability of devastation and destruction that follow socialism and communism. We must remember the power of freedom and the western American spirit. Reagan spoke the words, “freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaced the ancient hatreds among the nation with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.”
President Reagan’s core principle of a limited government meant more freedom for the people. Reagan believed in the power of the youth and there is so much the young generations can learn from this principle. In this same speech at the Wall he professes, “there is no better way to establish hope for the future than to enlighten young minds.”
Thirty years later, and his eloquent words are still relevant. Even relevant to college students and campuses today are his final statements in the speech. When asked to respond to those who were protesting him in Berlin he comments, “I wonder if they have ever asked themselves that if they should have the kind of government they apparently seek, no one would ever be able to do what they’re doing again.”
In November of 1989 the Berlin Wall finally came down. No doubt due to President Ronald Reagan’s fight against Communism and the Cold War. We must always remember the strength of the American dream and way of life. We will constantly have to fight for our freedoms and that will simply make us strong and courageous. Remember: “freedom is the victor.”