Remembering Reagan’s Stellar Speech by Garrett Smith

Remembering the Cold War and Reagan’s Stellar Speech

Thirty-two years ago, the world watched as the Cold War neared its end. At its forefront stood a president who faced the task of stomping out the spark that risked igniting the powder keg. That keg’s contents being yet another global conflict.

The Rise of a New Evil Empire

The Soviet Union was born in 1922, following the Russian Civil War. This conflict saw the collapse of the Russian Empire as the takeover by the Marxist ideology began. The Soviet Union eventually grew into an enormous superpower. After being betrayed by Hitler and Nazi Germany during the early stages of World War II, Joseph Stalin sought an alliance with the US. Some of the largest battles of the war would be fought by Soviet troops, at Stalingrad, Seelow Heights, and Berlin.

The collapse of Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire in 1945 left the US, USSR, and Britain as the remaining superpowers. This was soon changed to two superpowers, with the USSR occupying half of Europe and the US aligning with the other half, as well as former Japanese-controlled regions in the Pacific. With two superpowers left to dominate the global stage, one seeking good and the other seeking evil, the tension was bound to rise. Not long after the end of World War II, the Cold War began, and it wouldn’t be over soon.

Decades of Hostility

The Cold War lasted from the late 1940s to 1989, when Gorbachev and George HW Bush declared the ideological war over. During this time, the stakes were always high, and there was always the possibility of all-out war. Nine US presidents served terms during this decades-long era: Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush.

All of these presidents faced different conflicts and hostilities within their respective terms. Truman, the first of the Cold War presidents, was faced with the Berlin Blockade, during which US, British, and French troops provided supplies to besieged German citizens via airlift. Not long after, both Truman and Eisenhower were faced with the Korean War, the first of the Cold War’s “proxy wars,” during which we fought the Soviet Union indirectly. The Vietnam War would later begin during Eisenhower’s presidency.

Kennedy experienced several incidents that brought the world closer to war, including the Berlin Crisis of 1961, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon would all experience the Vietnam War during their administrations, and it would be the Cold War’s longest proxy conflict. By the time of Carter’s presidency, even though the Vietnam War had ended, tension began to rise once again. Not only was the Soviet Union seemingly-gaining in aggression, but Iranian revolutionaries had captured 52 Americans. The Carter Administration attempted a rescue, but it resulted in failure.

Enter the Gipper

By 1980, the world had once again become a giant powder keg with numerous fuses. American citizens were being held hostage in Iran, the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan, and a large civil war between communist and democratic rebel factions in Angola had broken out, with both superpowers monitoring the situation.

 

When it seemed like hope was lost, the right person for the job entered the White House. Placing God and country first, Ronald Reagan’s theme – “Let’s Make America Great Again” – restored hope and patriotism in the hearts of many Americans. During his first inauguration, Iran released the American hostages. Reagan would make it clear during his two terms that any assault on US citizens, no matter where, would result in punishment.

Using a “peace through strength” initiative, Reagan knew the Soviet Union’s days were numbered, and he placed them under strict watch. During his first term, he became the first president to coin the phrase “Evil Empire” for the USSR. Holding the Soviet Union accountable, he brought the nation to its knees and surfaced the reality that the USSR was on its way to collapse. Using his peace through strength initiative, Reagan laid the groundwork for ending the Cold War, which would end not long after his second presidential term was over. Not before Reagan delivered one of the most iconic speeches in American history, however.

Standing at the Reichstag in Berlin on June 12, 1987, Reagan addressed the issue of the Cold War’s biggest and most notorious symbol: The Berlin Wall. Constructed in 1961, the Berlin Wall physically separated communist East Germany from capitalist West Germany. Many in the east who sought to escape to freedom in the west were prevented from doing so. Then, in 1987, as Reagan stood amid the divisive symbol of oppression, he declared: “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!”.

Reagan’s speech restored hope in the hearts of people all over the world, and it signaled that the long-awaited ending to the Cold War was near. In 1989, the Berlin Wall began to topple. In December 1991, just one day after Christmas, the Soviet Union dissolved, ending the Cold War.

Past and Present

The Berlin Wall has been destroyed for nearly 30 years. Though gone, it will remain etched in the hearts of people everywhere as a symbol of division and oppression. Today, many on the Left seek to equate the border wall sought by President Trump to the Berlin Wall. They ridicule it as a symbol of oppression and mock Republicans, making claims such as, “Reagan wanted to tear down a wall, and now, Trump wants to build one!” It is imperative that we distinguish the difference between the two. The Berlin Wall was constructed to prevent Germany’s own citizens from escaping to another part of their nation, where capitalist freedom awaited them. Trump’s proposed border wall is intended to halt the progression of illegal immigration from another country. Donald Trump wants immigrants from all over to enjoy America and her benefits, but they must do it legally, as so many before them did. It is important that we correctly remember the past, so that we may properly distinguish present events.

 

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