On this day, June 12, 1987, in one of his most famous speeches, Ronald Reagan challenged Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall. After World War II Germany’s capital, Berlin was divided into four sections – The Americans, British, and French controlled the western region, and the Soviets gained power of the eastern region. In 1949, all three western sections came together as the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), and the East Germany section became known as the German Democratic Republic.
The East German government erected the Berlin Wall in 1961 to prevent citizens from escaping to West Germany. The wall became a symbol of oppression during the Cold War.
President Ronald Reagan’s speech came at the height of East-West tensions. He was scheduled to attend the 1987 G-7 summit meeting in Venice, Italy, and later made a brief stop in Berlin.
Arriving in Berlin on June 12, 1987, President and Mrs. Reagan were taken to the Reichstag, where they viewed the wall from a balcony. Reagan then made his speech at the Brandenburg Gate at 2:00 p.m., in front of two panes of bulletproof glass protecting him from potential snipers in East Berlin.
Here is the ‘Tear Down This Wall’ part of the speech:
Shortly after Reagan’s presidency, the Berlin Wall did indeed get torn down. Most of us were glued to our television sets when we saw the chilling (in a good way) coverage of the wall coming down:
Here is the full speech Ronald Reagan gave to get the ball rolling:
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