President Ronald Reagan delivers his famous “Tear Down This Wall” address in Berlin,
Germany

Speaker: Ronald Reagan
Delivered On: 6/12/1987
Place: West Berlin, Germany
Subject: Divide between East and West
Germany, between democracy and communism.
Audio/Video Available:

Description: The Berlin Wall was built in 1961, and to many, the Wall symbolized communist oppression.
In 1963, President
JFK
gave a speech supporting the democratic Western Germany, not long after
East Germany built the wall to inhibit movement from East to West Germany. In 1987,
Reagan spoke to 45,000 through protective bulletproof glass, encouraging Soviet
Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to eliminate the Berlin Wall. Reagan gave this speech
on June 12, 1987, to honor the 750th anniversary of Berlin and remind the people
of East Germany of the necessary dedication to transparency and reconstruction.
Although several of Reagan’s advisors pushed him to leave out the phrase “tear down
this wall,” out of fear of isolating East Germany or Gorbachev, he decided to include
it. Later, it became known as the highlight and name of the speech.
References:
Transcript/Log:

Thank you. Thank you very much. Chancellor Kohl, Governing Mayor Diepgen, ladies
and gentlemen:

Twenty four years ago, President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin, speaking to the
people of this city and the world at the city hall. Well, since then two other presidents
have come, each in his turn, to Berlin. And today I, myself, make my second visit
to your city. We come to Berlin, we American Presidents, because it’s our duty to
speak, in this place, of freedom. But I must confess, we’re drawn here by other
things as well: by the feeling of history in this city, more than 500 years older
than our own nation; by the beauty of the Grunewald and the Tiergarten; most of
all, by your courage and determination. Perhaps the composer, Paul Lincke, understood
something about American Presidents. You see, like so many Presidents before me,
I come here today because wherever I go, whatever I do: “Ich hab noch einen koffer
in Berlin.” [I still have a suitcase in Berlin.]

Our gathering today is being broadcast throughout Western Europe and North America.
I understand that it is being seen and heard as well in the East. To those listening
throughout Eastern Europe, I extend my warmest greetings and the good will of the
American people. To those listening in East Berlin, a special word. Although I cannot
be with you, I address my remarks to you just as surely as to those standing here
before me. For I join you, as I join your fellow countrymen in the West, in this
firm, this unalterable belief: Es gibt nur ein Berlin. [There is only one Berlin.]

Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a
vast system of barriers, that divides the entire continent of Europe. From the Baltic,
south, those barriers cut across Germany in a gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog
runs, and guard towers. Farther south, there may be no visible, no obvious wall.
But there remain armed guards and checkpoints all the same – still a restriction
on the right to travel, still an instrument to impose upon ordinary men and women,
the will of a totalitarian state. Yet it is here in Berlin where the wall emerges
most clearly; here, cutting across your city, where the news photo and the television
screen have imprinted this brutal division of a continent upon the mind of the world.
Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his
fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar. President von Weizsacker
has said “The German question is open as long as the Brandenburg Gate is closed.”
Today, today I say as long as this gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall
is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but
the question of freedom for all mankind. Yet I do not come here to lament. For I
find in Berlin a message of hope, even in the shadow of this wall, a message of
triumph.

In this season of spring in 1945, the people of Berlin emerged from their air raid
shelters to find devastation. Thousands of miles away, the people of the United
States reached out to help. And in 1947 Secretary of State – as you’ve been told-George
Marshall announced the creation of what would become known as the Marshall plan.
Speaking precisely 40 years ago this month, he said “Our policy is directed not
against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.”
In the Reichstag a few moments ago, I saw a display commemorating this 40th anniversary
of the Marshall plan. I was struck by the sign on a burnt-out, gutted structure
that was being rebuilt. I understand that Berliners of my own generation can remember
seeing signs like it dotted throughout the Western sectors of the city. The sign
read simply: “The Marshall plan is helping here to strengthen the free world.” A
strong, free world in the West, that dream became real.

Japan rose from ruin to become an economic giant. Italy, France, Belgium, virtually
every nation in Western Europe saw political and economic rebirth, the European
Community was founded. In West Germany and here in Berlin, there took place an economic
miracle, the Wirtschaftswunder. Adenauer, Erhard, Reuter, and other 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. The German leaders reduced tariffs,
expanded free trade, lowered taxes. From 1950 to 1960 alone, the standard of living
in West Germany and Berlin doubled.

Where four decades ago there was rubble, today in West Berlin there is the greatest
industrial output of any city in Germany. Busy office blocks, fine homes and apartments,
proud avenues, and the spreading lawns of park land. Where a city’s culture seemed
to have been destroyed, today there are two great universities, orchestras and an
opera, countless theaters, and museums.Where there was want, today there’s abundance,
food, clothing, automobiles. The wonderful goods of the Ku’damm. From devastation,
from utter ruin, you Berliners have, in freedom, rebuilt a city that once again
ranks as one of the greatest on Earth. The Soviets may have had other plans. But,
my friends, there were a few things the Soviets didn’t count on. “Berliner herz,
Berliner humor, ja, und Berliner schnauze.” [Berliner heart, Berliner humor, yes,
and a Berliner schnauze.]

In the 1950’s, Khrushchev predicted: “We will bury you.” But in the West today,
we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented
in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness,
declining standards of health; even want of the most basic kind-too little food.
Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades,
then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion:
Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations
with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.

And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the
importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and
openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts
are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate
with greater freedom from state control. Are these the beginnings of profound changes
in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in
the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change
and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance
of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign
the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically
the cause of freedom and peace. 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!

I understand the fear of war and the pain of division that afflict this continent,
and I pledge to you my country’s efforts to help overcome these burdens. To be sure,
we in the West must resist Soviet expansion. So we must maintain defenses of unassailable
strength. Yet we seek peace; so we must strive to reduce arms on both sides. Beginning
10 years ago, the Soviets challenged the Western alliance with a grave new threat,
hundreds of new and more deadly SS-20 nuclear missiles, capable of striking every
capital in Europe. The Western alliance responded by committing itself to a counter
deployment, unless the Soviets agreed to negotiate a better solution; namely, the
elimination of such weapons on both sides. For many months, the Soviets refused
to bargain in earnestness. As the alliance, in turn, prepared to go forward with
its counter-deployment, there were difficult days; days of protests like those during
my 1982 visit to this city, and the Soviets later walked away from the table. But
through it all, the alliance held firm. And I invite those who protested then. I
invite those who protest today, to mark this fact. Because we remained strong, the
Soviets came back to the table. And because we remained strong, today we have within
reach the possibility, not merely of limiting the growth of arms, but of eliminating,
for the first time, an entire class of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.
As I speak, NATO ministers are meeting in Iceland to review the progress of our
proposals for eliminating these weapons. At the talks in Geneva, we have also proposed
deep cuts in strategic offensive weapons. And the Western allies have likewise made
far-reaching proposals to reduce the danger of conventional war and to place a total
ban on chemical weapons. While we pursue these arms reductions, I pledge to you
that we will maintain the capacity to deter Soviet aggression at any level at which
it might occur. And in cooperation with many of our allies, the United States is
pursuing the Strategic Defense Initiative-research to base deterrence not on the
threat of offensive retaliation, but on defenses that truly defend; on systems,
in short, that will not target populations, but shield them. By these means we seek
to increase the safety of Europe and all the world. But we must remember a crucial
fact. East and West do not mistrust each other because we are armed; we are armed
because we mistrust each other. And our differences are not about weapons but about
liberty. When President Kennedy spoke at the City Hall those 24 years ago, freedom
was encircled, Berlin was under siege. And today, despite all the pressures upon
this city, Berlin stands secure in its liberty. And freedom itself is transforming
the globe.

In the Philippines, in South and Central America, democracy has been given a rebirth.
Throughout the Pacific, free markets are working miracle after miracle of economic
growth. In the industrialized nations, a technological revolution is taking place,
a revolution marked by rapid, dramatic advances in computers and telecommunications.
In Europe, only one nation and those it controls refuse to join the community of
freedom. Yet in this age of redoubled economic growth, of information and innovation,
the Soviet Union faces a choice: It must make fundamental changes, or it will become
obsolete. Today thus represents a moment of hope. We in the West stand ready to
cooperate with the East to promote true openness, to break down barriers that separate
people, to create a safer, freer world. And surely there is no better place than
Berlin, the meeting place of East and West, to make a start. Free people of Berlin,today,
as in the past, the United States stands for the strict observance and full implementation
of all parts of the Four Power Agreement of 1971. Let us use this occasion, the
750th anniversary of this city, to usher in a new era, to seek a still fuller, richer
life for the Berlin of the future. Together, let us maintain and develop the ties
between the Federal Republic and the Western sectors of Berlin, which is permitted
by the 1971 agreement.

And I invite Mr. Gorbachev, let us work to bring the Eastern and Western parts of
the city closer together, so that all the inhabitants of all Berlin can enjoy the
benefits that come with life in one of the great cities of the world. To open Berlin
still further to all Europe, East and West, let us expand the vital air access to
this city, finding ways of making commercial air service to Berlin more convenient,
more comfortable, and more economical. We look to the day when West Berlin can become
one of the chief aviation hubs in all central Europe.

With our French and British partners, the United States is prepared to help bring
international meetings to Berlin. It would be only fitting for Berlin to serve as
the site of United Nations meetings, or world conferences on human rights and arms
control or other issues that call for international cooperation. There is no better
way to establish hope for the future than to enlighten young minds, and we would
be honored to sponsor summer youth exchanges, cultural events, and other programs
for young Berliners from the East. Our French and British friends, I’m certain,
will do the same. And it’s my hope that an authority can be found in East Berlin
to sponsor visits from young people of the Western sectors. One final proposal,
one close to my heart: Sport represents a source of enjoyment and ennoblement, and
you many have noted that the Republic of Korea – South Korea-has offered to permit
certain events of the 1988 Olympics to take place in the North. International sports
competitions of all kinds could take place in both parts of this city. And what
better way to demonstrate to the world the openness of this city than to offer in
some future year to hold the Olympic games here in Berlin, East and West? In these
four decades, as I have said, you Berliners have built a great city. You’ve done
so in spite of threats – the Soviet attempts to impose the East-mark, the blockade.
Today the city thrives in spite of the challenges implicit in the very presence
of this wall. What keeps you here?

Certainly there’s a great deal to be said for your fortitude, for your defiant courage.
But I believe there’s something deeper, something that involves Berlin’s whole look
and feel and way of life – not mere sentiment. No one could live long in Berlin
without being completely disabused of illusions. Something instead, that has seen
the difficulties of life in Berlin but chose to accept them, that continues to build
this good and proud city in contrast to a surrounding totalitarian presence that
refuses to release human energies or aspirations. Something that speaks with a powerful
voice of affirmation, that says yes to this city, yes to the future, yes to freedom.
In a word, I would submit that what keeps you in Berlin is love – love both profound
and abiding.

Perhaps this gets to the root of the matter, to the most fundamental distinction
of all between East and West. The totalitarian world produces backwardness because
it does such violence to the spirit, thwarting the human impulse to create, to enjoy,
to worship. The totalitarian world finds even symbols of love and of worship an
affront. Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they
erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexander Platz.Virtually ever
since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower’s
one major flaw, treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of
every kind. Yet even today when the Sun strikes that sphere – that sphere that towers
over all Berlin – the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the
city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed. As I looked
out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed
words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner, “This wall
will fall. Beliefs become reality.” Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For
it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand
freedom.

And I would like, before I close, to say one word. I have read, and I have been
questioned since I’ve been here about certain demonstrations against my coming.
And I would like to say just one thing, and to those who demonstrate so. 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.

Thank you and God bless you all.

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