Ronald Reagan as the Catalyst for Change in Foreign Politics
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men w ere free”. Ronald Reagan stated this four years before the delivery of his “Tear Down This Wall” speech, challenging Mr Gorbachev to ‘tear down’ the ‘Berlin Wall’. It was said at a time where it was arguably the height of the communist movement throughout Germany and nearby European countries. Reagan a proud nationalist and patriot who was extremely vocal about his beliefs and values enabled him to connect with the educated upper and middle-class person. He believed that every person should be able to feel safe within their country, he believed that no one should ever live under such an authoritarian tyrannical regime, and he also believed that every person had the right to fight for their freedom in defiance of tyranny, as “The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave (Reagan; NASA, 1986)”. Reagan, having the courage of his convictions, played a pivotal part in the catalyst for change he ever so wanted.
Ronald Wilson Reagan… A name that has become tantamount to the war on communism and the fall of the iron curtain, while inspiring millions around the world and being a precursor for change. As president, Reagan sought to bring the quintessential of American exceptionalism (an ideology by holding USA in a unique light in both positive and negative regards) back to the country, to set the economy back on track (as a result of a deep recession), eradicate communism and halt the Soviet movement (Moffatt, 2018; Frost 2010). Essentially, Reagan was a President who achieved more than anyone expected him to, including himself – he went from ‘just another President’, to one whos legacy shall be remembered for many years to come (Frost, 2010) Nevertheless, President Reagan accomplished more than most American presidents during his eight-year reign. He represented the typical nationalist traits and surged to strive for the best for Americans. This included national freedom, democracy and competitive market capitalism. This is evident in his 1983 speech, where he denounced the Soviet Union as an “evil empire”. Reagan’s relationship with Mr Gorbachev leading up to the “Tear Down This Wall” speech was cordial. In the 1980s, the Soviet Union and the United States held numerous summits to discuss the state of both county’s growing military arsenals, and the nation’s leaders, who grew to know each other during these sessions and developed a personal rapport (Appendix, D). “Reagan’s charisma and personal warmth enabled him to disarm Gorbachev who was more formal and reserved. Because of their relationship, the two world leaders were more willing to have conversations and negotiate leading to the INF Treaty” (Lassman, 2017). President Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech was addressed on the 12th of June, 1987 at Brandenburg Gate in Germany (Robinson, 2007; Appendix, C). In his speech he took specific aim at the Soviet politician Mikhail Gorbachev and the totalitarianism leadership over most of Europe. This speech played a significant aspect in the fall of the Berlin Wall, which in its self was a catalyst for the downfall of communism.
On November 9th, 1989, saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, these years preceding were “politically charged in a way the world has never seen since (Hoffman, 2016).” “Young people organized major demonstrations in former East Germany, which then used to be called the German Democratic Republic (GDR), under the banner ‘Wir sind das Volk!’ (translation: ‘we are the people’), campaigning for a peaceful and democratic new order (Hoffman, 2016).” However, people joined peace marches in the former West Germany in the early 1980s, these people were protesting against the ever-increasing arms race between the two world superpowers; Russia and America (Appendix, F). Communism in essence is a political system that encompasses a wide range of ideologies and political movements that perceive the society as a whole single entity and the core theoretical values common ownership of wealth, economic enterprise and property are shared among the people. In practice however, it doesn’t take into account human nature and the tyrannical authoritarian state that controls the country and economy. It was a regime that inundated Europe at the cessation of World War 2. At its conclusion, in order to spread communism in Eastern Europe, the Soviets annexed the Baltic States, and later “East Germany became their operational zone (n/a, 2018)”. Communist Soviets “took over Poland in 1945, Albania and Bulgaria in 1946, Romania in 1947, Czechoslovakia in 1948, East Germany and Hungary in 1949” (n/a, 2018).
All the governments of Eastern Europe (except Yugoslavia) were dominated by the USSR (n/a, 2018). However, it was still under communist rule under Tito. As the communist-based USSR dominated Eastern Europe, Western Europe was controlled by the capitalist United States with its allies and Western democracies (N/A, 2018). With the communist movement at its peak during the end of WW2, it was evident that this authoritarian reign wasn’t going to last, and with its crumbling, Reagan saw this opportunity to seize change. His fight with communism was further catapulted after his speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate (Appendix C).
On the 12th June, 1987, Ronald Wilson Reagan gave ground-breaking speech at the Berlin wall (Appendix B). During his historic speech, he called for an end to communism, urging Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall. His speech, at only 26 minutes long, is viewed as the most successful speech of his presidency (n.a, -). While speaking to a crowd of thousands of Berliners, Reagan stated, ‘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! (1987; Appendix A)”. Two years later saw the demise and destruction of the Berlin Wall and with it the breakdown of communism itself as the communist nations around Europe began to crumble. The explicit meaning of the speech was to inspire the disheartened Berliners and German’s, not to live under the fear of the communist state over the wall. However, the implicit meaning behind the speech can also be extrapolated, indirectly President Reagan is to look strong and powerful to the refined Russian where by Reagan demands the he ‘tear down” the Berlin Wall. Reagan argued with irreparable bias that whenever Germany had been unified, destruction and war had followed (Shirley, 2017).
50 meters from the Berlin Wall, Ronald Reagan delivered his speech that marked a prominent call for the re-amalgamation of East and West Berlin. “This, by many, was considered a bold challenge to Gorbachev to prove he was serious about reforming the Soviet governmental policies (Maddison, 2012)”. Nonetheless, conventional talk show host, Rush Limbaugh writes, “The end of the Cold War and the defeat of Communism in the Soviet Union was a clear victory for American values, for the American way of life, for the republican, democratic, free-marked ideals of the United States of America” (Limbaugh, 1992). However, this statement could contain bias as Limbaugh is American and a controversial political commentator. Nevertheless, Ronald Reagan with the courage of his convictions aided to the demise of the communism movement throughout Europe with his “Tear Down This Wall Speech” which changed the lives of millions.
There are few phrases that encapsulate the quintessential theory of American Exceptionalism and that stand alone in American History: Theodore Roosevelt’s, ‘It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort;’ Abraham Lincoln’s, ‘Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, cannot long retain it’ (Rossevelt, 1899 ; Lincoln, 1859) Thirty-two years ago, the great communicator added another phrase that would go down in history; “Tear Down This Wall”. On the 9th on November 1989, two years after Reagan demanded that Gorbachev “Tear Down” the Berlin Wall, it crumbled. Not only did this mean that the Cold War was beginning to come to an end, but the Berliners of both West and East were able to re-unite. Nearly two million East Berliners visited West Berlin to celebrate the demise of the tyrannical regime that following weekend (N/a, 1989). “Individuals could now be self-employed, climb up the social ladder, travel and enjoy foreign media (n/a, 2013)”. However, this couldn’t have been accomplished if it wasn’t for Ronald Reagan’s foremost speech that saw the demise of a physical and symbolic boundary. A boundary that effected millions of people, not just in Berlin but around the world.
Conclusively, Reagan, being a stanch anti-communist embodied what was meant to be remorseless in the face of communism and being a catalyst for change. It is apparent that Reagan accomplished a great deal during his two terms as President of America. His most important accomplishments stem form restoring the quintessential of American exceptionalism back to the country, reinstating economic growth and bringing an end to the Cold War. On the 12th June, 1987, gave his foremost speech where he challenges Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall. This speech was regarded as his most famous speech of his presidency and one that changed the lives of millions.
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