Tear Down This Wall

The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall has prompted a number of articles and reflections about President Reagan’s historic 1987 speech.  Needless to say, Clark is the true expert on the issue — but I wanted to link Tony Dolan’s recent piece from the Wall Street Journal, reminiscing about the speechwriters’ full court press to keep the crucial line in the draft.

As Dolan writes,

Shortly after the speech draft began making its review through the bureaucracy, the speechwriters, as Reagan true-believers, had deployed to do the interpersonal glad-handing that sometimes eases objections to speech passages. The Berlin event for us was the quintessential chance—in front of Communism’s most evocative monument—to enunciate the anti-Soviet counterstrategy that Reagan had been putting in place since his first weeks in office.

I don’t agree with Dolan’s overarching conclusion that “rhetorical confrontation causes geopolitical conciliation.”   Sometimes turning up the rhetorical thermostat is helpful; sometimes it’s not.  But President Reagan was right, and smart, to keep that line in his speech.  And his speechwriters were fortunate to have played a part in his words, and in shaping history.

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