As he stood by the Berlin Wall, that ugly reminder that a once free and prosperous city was now divided and conquered, President Reagan sought to give hope to those suffering under Communist oppression.
Several of Reagan's trusted advisors counseled him to change his intended remarks.
They told him the words were inflammatory and provocative.
Still, Reagan persisted. He gave his speech as it was written because it was, “the right thing to do.”
Against the historic backdrop of the Brandenburg Gate, President Reagan issued a challenge to Soviet leader Mikhail 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!"
President Reagan was criticized at the time, but to the astonishment of most of the experts, less than three years later the wall did come down.
Today may be a good time to tell our children the story of this speech and to teach them that sometimes it takes courage to stand alone. Sometimes it's hard to do the right thing. But nothing is more important than doing the right thing. Nothing.
The first two videos tell some of the story behind President Reagan's historic Berlin Wall speech. The third video is a five minute excerpt from the speech. And some great resources are listed below.
Learn More about President Reagan's Speech and the Fall of the Berlin Wall
- How Top Advisers Opposed Reagan's Challenge to Gorbachev--But Lost, by Peter Robinson
The Culmination of Reagan's Foreign Policy
Four Words that Moved the World
President Reagan's complete "Tear Down this Wall" speech (28:42)