Ronald Reagan: The Great Communicator 

Basic Information:
Date Given: June 12, 1987
Reason Given: This speech was given at the Brandenburg Gate. This was where the entrance of the Berlin Wall was located and it is where JFK delivered his speech upon his visit to Berlin after WWII. He gave this speech to declare the United States' position on communism and the Soviet Union. This was the United States official backing of the Germans in their attempt to reunify their country.
Effects: This speech had several impacts. It restated the United States' intolerance of communism that still exists today. Also, shortly after this speech, talks commenced between Reagan and Gorbachev, East and West as communism fell, and so did the wall.


Ronald Reagan begins this speech by recalling John F. Kennedy's visit to Berlin in 1963. This alogning himself with JFK is very smart because mostlistening would recall JFK's visit and the pleasant feelings it brought when he declared, "Ich bin ein Berliner." JFK resonated with the German people and Reagan was attempting to do the same. Like Kennedy, Reagan also mixes in German phrases and shows the people of Berlin that he does feel for them and he does respect their culture and language. This common ground that he is establishing is present in all of his addresses that I have read. Reagan goes on to talk about what the wall stands for for all of Europe. He describes it using clear and simple language that is very common for him. He says, "Today I say: As long as the gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind. Yet I do not come here to lament. For I find in Berlin a message of hope, even in the shadow of this wall, a message of triumph." Reagan very clearly ststes his position on the wall and communism in general, but he does not stop there. His ever present optimism comes through and he shifts his attention and begins to talk about Berlin in 1945, right after WWII. The city was destroyed, but the people continued to rebuild their lives, their homes and their country. With great respect, Reagan helps the German people recall this dark time in their history. He then begins to talk of West Germany today and says, "Where four decades ago there was rubble, today in West Berlin there is the greatest industrial output of any city in Germany--busy office blocks, fine homes and apartments, proud avenues, and the spreading lawns of parkland. Where a city's culture seemed to have been destroyed, today there are two great universities, orchestras and an opera, countless theaters, and museums. Where there was want, today there's abundance--food, clothing, automobiles--the wonderful goods of the Ku'damm. From devastation, from utter ruin, you Berliners have, in freedom, rebuilt a city that once again ranks as one of the greatest on earth. The Soviets may have had other plans. But my friends, there were a few things the Soviets didn't count on--Berliner Herz, Berliner Humor, ja, und Berliner Schnauze. [Berliner heart, Berliner humor, yes, and a Berliner Schnauze.]" Reagan was giving the people hope. He was encouraging them to remember where they had come from and plan for a bright future. Reagan knew that hopeful, encouraged people are much more likely to demand change. If there is no hope, there is no need to demand change; but if there is hope, change is more likely to be demanded on the grounds that things can get better. Reagan continues and gets to the most memorable part of this speech and says, "General Secretary 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 opent this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" He then invites Gorbachev into peace talks. This was unprecedented. The United States held a very strict policy that said the U.S. would not deal with communist rulers. This very often meant that talks of anykind never happened. It justs didn't happen, at least for the public to see. Reagan's willingness to sit down and talk shows his pragmatism as a leader and he communicates this by winning over the hearts of the German people. Reagan's communication is powerful because he uses hope to inspire people, clear and simple language to help listeners understand and pragmatic tactics to get what he wants.