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Reagan's famous speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall in 1987 has been often quoted and the clip replayed over and over as a pivotal point in the Cold War, where the leader of the "free world", Reagan, issued a direct challenge to his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev to "Tear down this wall".
But the speech itself is not that significant in my opinion. It is, like most political speeches, largely symbolic. And while standing in front of the Berlin Wall in solidarity with NATO ally West Germany, as John F. Kennedy had once done, makes for great political theater, it is still theater.
In the end, the Wall was torn down by the Germans themselves, and only after a popular revolution in their own country. It wasn't because Reagan asked them to (and it happened two years later). Reagan is often, in my opinion, given too much credit for "winning the Cold War", but I do love that speech, and from a political standpoint, it was very effective.
Reagan's Brandenburg Gate Address is seen as one of those moments where "The Great Communicator" was at his very best. The symbolic force of the call to "tear down this wall" was something that captured the essence of Reagan's message. His idea of Western democracy not merely be an adversary to Communism, but actually the "good" portion in this morality play was accentuated by the speech. Reagan was able to categorize the Cold War in moral and ethical terms in which America and the West represented a sense of righteousness while the Communist world was the embodiment of evil. This was something brought out in the speech and one of its lasting legacies.
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