President Ronald Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech marked his visit to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on June 12, 1987, following the G7 summit meeting in Venice. As Reagan spoke, his words were amplified to both sides of the Berlin Wall, reaching both East and West Germans. The President noted recent Soviet progress toward “a new policy of reform and openness,” but wondered, “Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it?” Reagan declared that the Berlin Wall offered the Soviets and their president, Mikhail Gorbachev, an opportunity to make a “sign” of their sincerity and “advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.” The “sign” Reagan proposed was simple: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
In the 1950s, Khrushchev predicted: “We will bury you.” But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind--too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.
And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control.
Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.
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, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
Ronald Reagan, “Tear Down this Wall” speech at the Brandenburg Gate of the Berlin Wall, West Berlin, June 12, 1987.