June 12, 2015

Today in History: 'Tear down this wall' (1987)

John RobsonResident Historian

On June 12, 1987, Ronald Reagan challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.

Two years later, it fell, and Communism crumbled, a marvellous demonstration of the power of stating the obvious.

Reagan’s opponents considered him a simpleton.

But in fact he had a tremendous gift of clarity. He always knew the Soviet economy was a failure because central planning could not work.

He knew communism was a social failure because it could not satisfy the human spirit.

Despite the “sophisticated” commentators who argued for fundamental moral equivalence between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, Reagan knew the U.S.S.R. was an evil empire that needed barbed wire, machine guns and landmines to keep its inhabitants trapped in the “workers’ paradise”.

And he knew that it was right and useful to say so clearly and distinctly.

Maybe it’s worth trying again.

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commented 2015-06-15 10:19:34 -0400
John Robson, I agree with your assessment of “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” much more than other versions of it I’ve heard.. President Reagan just happened to be at the right place at the right time.
Robert Prongay, I like your assessment of Canada/US relations and Ronald Reagan did stand tall, as America did in those days. But, Reagan did not win the Cold War, America did, in the battles of the Berlin Airlift, Korea, Vietnam, Angola, the Arms Race, the race into space and more that I can’t remember.
commented 2015-06-13 21:41:46 -0400
I think Conservative Canadians identify with Reagan Robert, and in no way consider any American leader as distant or foreign. We are too close for that, share too big a border. However, Canadians are not Americans, and we fought with the British, French and Tecumseh to beat back the American invasion in 1812. The West does have the best civilization, because democracy works better than dictatorship, and Western religion doesn’t advocate killing those who are don’t believe as they do. America and Canada know they must work in unison. But Canadians are Canadian. We recognise the similarities but will always embrace the differences.
commented 2015-06-13 01:14:46 -0400
As a 10 year old child living in NJ when Reagan was elected he was THE PRESIDENT, the image of strength and poise he exhibited are an example that Harper seems to emulate. Pull no punches, tell your enemy we do occupy the high road and be proud to exhibit “American Exceptionalism” because Canada shares a part of that. I often wonder why so many Canadians on the left would try to differentiate from America when they are an integral part of the American story. I had no foreknowledge my personal journey would lead me to live and work in Canada, but no Canadian should ever view Reagan as some distant foreign leader, but rather as part of the great tradition that Americans from the USA and Canada that have used our unique pioneer experience to enhance the best civilization the world has ever known….English enlightenment. We are all part of this. God Bless Ronald Reagan for winning the cold war without firing a shot.
commented 2015-06-12 21:53:28 -0400
Prince Knight – The principles I speak of are very simple. The government sticks to foreign affairs and the overall leadership of the populace i.e. sensible laws, strict punishment for criminals, delegation of federal funds to the provinces… while leaving all the nanny state bullspit in the shredder. I don’t need a government controlling every damn aspect of my life. Leave the education of our children in the hands of the parents. Let us have control over our own retirement. Give us control of our own lives.
commented 2015-06-12 21:42:50 -0400
Bravo Z., " but he stood up and barked like a junk yard dog – and people listened because he meant it." and Fraser M. yes, we sure could use some of that common sense and courage about now.
commented 2015-06-12 18:57:33 -0400
Lots of bad things can be stated and have been stated about Regan – but he stood up and barked like a junk yard dog – and people listened because he meant it.

Not many with those kind of balls today.

Imagine Iran negotiating with Regan over the nuke deal?

It would be a far different outcome than the negotiations with Hussein Obama.

We need a few more of him in the west today.
commented 2015-06-12 15:58:01 -0400
John regarding your last statement “we could use could use more of it today” I’m sure if Reagan our Margret were negotiating with the mad mullahs of Iran, this is what their starting position would be. By developing a nuclear weapon you are declaring war against us and the bombs will be falling with in 60 seconds DO YOU UNDERSTAND lets talk.
commented 2015-06-12 15:03:27 -0400
“Hear, Hear, John. Reagan did indeed have the gift of clarity.” More to the point. He spoke what he thought, and did what he spoke to. Not bad at all for someone originally considered a “B List” actor! Sure wish we had some of that “clarity” now!
commented 2015-06-12 14:40:05 -0400
Hear, Hear, John. Reagan did indeed have the gift of clarity. I remember making fun of the movie star pres. myself when he first got in. but he truly did have talent.

Jason I agree wholeheartedly.
commented 2015-06-12 13:31:06 -0400
I rather like these segments. Thanks Rebel. Thanks John.
commented 2015-06-12 13:23:12 -0400
Jason Weaver — nice concept. Tell me the principle(s) you want to bring back, and I’ll tell you whether or not I believe in it/them… or would even support it/them.
commented 2015-06-12 12:20:04 -0400
John Robson. I wholeheartedly agree. Reagan wasn’t a perfect politician, but he was a strong and calculating leader, which was actually better for the U.S. at the time. And probably is now. But since my comment is more about Canada, I’ll stay that course. :-)

Our political structure has become such a favorites game, and lined with veins of corruption and deceit, that most politicians have forgotten the most important part of being a politician. LEADING THE PEOPLE! Personal agendas shouldn’t even enter into it. As much as I support him over the others, not even our PM has it down 100%. He’s making a good go of it, don’t mistake me on that, but compared to leaders past..?

We need some of the older ideas to come back. Not all, but those ideas and convictions that grew our nation to be a highly respected country. Instead of worrying about scandals and little drama fests in our elite circles, perhaps we could oh, I don’t know… Get back to our roots and solve our big problems without resorting to “progressive” bigotry and the cow patties that come with it! Please, someone tell me you agree with me.