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:
Question: What HBO show featured a mystic oracle known as Madame Trash Heap?
Last Question: What 13-year old sued his Kokomo, Indiana school after he was expelled for being HIV-positive?
Answer: Ryan White
Ryan White was the poster child for HIV/AIDS in the ’80s. When he was three days old, White was diagnosed with severe Hemophilia A, a hereditary blood disorder which causes even minor injuries to result in severe bleeding. In order for him to be treated, he received weekly blood transfusions.
At the time, AIDS was poorly understood at the time, to say the very least. It was only associated with the male gay community, because it was first diagnosed among gay men. But, in December 1984, during a partial-lung removal procedure, Ryan White was diagnosed with AIDS. It was discovered that one of the blood transfusions that he had received was infected with the virus.
After the diagnosis, White was too ill to return to school, but by early 1985 had begun to feel better. His mother asked if he could return to school, but was told by school officials that he should not. The school faced enormous pressure from parents and faculty to bar White from the school. There was little-to-no information about AIDS at the time, so people thought that they could get the disease just by casual contact or breathing the same air. Scientists knew it spread via blood and was not transmittable by any kind of casual contact, but ignorance prevailed, and people were scared to be around somebody that had AIDS.
The White family filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban. On November 25, an Indiana Department of Education officer ruled that the school must follow the Indiana Board of Health guidelines and that White must be allowed to attend school. Sadly, when White was permitted to return to school for one day in February 1986, 151 of 360 students stayed home. If that wasn’t bad enough, he also worked as a paperboy, and many of the people on his route canceled their subscriptions, believing that HIV could be transmitted through newsprint.
There were many threats of violence, and White was discriminated against in the Kokomo school. When a bullet was fired through the Whites’ living room window, the family decided to leave Kokomo. After finishing the school year, his family moved to Cicero, Indiana, where White enrolled at Hamilton Heights High School. On August 31, 1987, a “very nervous” White was greeted by school principal Tony Cook, school system superintendent Bob G. Carnal, and a handful of students who had been educated about AIDS and were unafraid to shake White’s hand.
The publicity of White’s trial catapulted him into the national spotlight, amidst a growing wave of AIDS coverage in the news media. Between 1985 and 1987, the number of news stories about AIDS in the American media doubled. White made several television and fundraising appearances. Many celebrities appeared with White, including John Cougar Mellencamp, Elton John and Michael Jackson, as well as President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan. Slowly, but surely, the world was becoming more educated about AIDS, with Ryan White playing large part in that.
By early 1990, White’s health was deteriorating rapidly. In his final public appearance, he hosted an after-Oscars party with former president Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan in California. Although his health was deteriorating, White spoke to the Reagans about his date to the prom and his hopes of attending college.
“We owe it to Ryan to make sure that the fear and ignorance that chased him from his home and his school will be eliminated. We owe it to Ryan to open our hearts and our minds to those with AIDS. We owe it to Ryan to be compassionate, caring and tolerant toward those with AIDS, their families and friends. It’s the disease that’s frightening, not the people who have it.”
—Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, April 11, 1990
On March 29, 1990, several months before his high school class graduated and before his senior prom, White entered Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis with a respiratory infection. As his condition deteriorated he was placed on a ventilator and sedated. He was visited by Elton John and the hospital was deluged with calls from well-wishers. White died on April 8, 1990.
In 1992, White’s mother founded the national nonprofit Ryan White Foundation. Elton John was inspired to create the Elton John AIDS Foundation. White also became the inspiration for a handful of popular songs. Elton John donated proceeds from “The Last Song,” which appears on his album The One, to a Ryan White fund at Riley Hospital. Michael Jackson dedicated the song “Gone Too Soon” from his Dem>Dangerous album to White, as did Tiffany with the song “Here in My Heart” on her New Inside album.
“Abraham Lincoln freed the black man. In many ways, Dr. King freed the white man. How did he accomplish this tremendous feat? Where others — white and black —preached hatred, he taught the principles of love and nonviolence. We can be so thankful that Dr. King raised his mighty eloquence for love and hope rather than for hostility and bitterness. He took the tension he found in our nation, a tension of injustice, and channeled it for the good of America and all her people.”
The American people, the most generous on earth, who created the highest standard of living, are not going to accept the notion that we can only make a better world for others by moving backwards ourselves. Those who believe we can have no business leading the nation.
Time to Recapture our Destiny
Detroit, Michigan, July 17, 1980
On December 7, Americans everywhere commemorate the 46th anniversary of the morning in 1941 when our Armed Forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, were subjected to a surprise aerial strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy. That attack killed 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178 others — and caused our Nation to enter World War II.
America was unprepared for war, but we quickly resolved to do what must be done in defense of our country. Knowing that in war there can be no substitute for victory, the American people summoned a great national effort in military strength and industrial activity. The sacrifices of our military personnel at Pearl Harbor became the prelude to those our brave fighting forces were to endure around the globe for the next three and one-half years. When the terrible conflict ceased and the peace was won, America’s freedom remained intact and we had taken on a crucial role as the leader of the world’s democracies and bulwark of international peace.
On December 7, America remembers much and resolves much. We remember Pearl Harbor’s dead and wounded and its courageous survivors who fought that day and many other days as well. We remember too one of history’s clearest lessons, that weakness and unpreparedness do not build peace but invite aggression. We remember that our freedom, purchased at so dear a price, can be taken from us. And we resolve that that shall never be. We resolve that our strength, our vigilance, and our devotion will forever keep America the land of the free and the home of the brave. We resolve that we will keep faith with those we have loved and lost. And we resolve that, always, we will remember Pearl Harbor.
The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 105, has designated December 7, 1987, as “National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day” and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this day.
Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim December 7, 1987, as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, and I call upon the people of the United States to observe this solemn occasion with appropriate ceremonies and activities and to pledge eternal vigilance and strong resolve to defend our Nation and its allies from all future aggression.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this seventh day of December, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twelfth.
In this spirit, Thanksgiving has become a day when Americans extend a helping hand to the less fortunate. Long before there was a government welfare program, this spirit of voluntary giving was ingrained in the American character. Americans have always understood that, truly, one must give in order to receive. This should be a day of giving as well as a day of thanks.