“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

On this day in history, June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and delivered this famous speech, in which he urged Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall as a gesture of genuine interest in freedom for Eastern Europe. The speech contained the immortal injunction “tear down this wall!”—which many people considered too provocative.

Of course it was provocative. That was the whole point. Reagan had grown tired of the idea, enforced by detente the previous decade, that Communism was here to stay and that the only question was how best to co-exist and get along. Reagan believed Communism couldn’t survive its own contradictions—the Marxists love that word but never apply it to their own insane ideology—and that instead of remaining quiet he would speed the process along with his rhetorical flair. (This included relentlessly mocking Communism whenever he could, through quips and jokes.) Isn’t it interesting that the two most restless and revolutionary Western leaders of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, were also considered the most conservative? Perhaps it’s time we re-evaluated words like “conservative.” In any case, watch the Gipper…

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