On this day in history, June 12, 1987, Reagan urges Gorbachev to ‘tear down this wall’

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On this day on June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan’s call to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down the Berlin Wall” became widely considered a defining moment of the Reagan presidency, according to Stanford University. 

The line, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” also came to be a profound statement of the 1980s. 

President Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech was made following the G7 summit meeting in Venice.

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And as the Reagan spoke, his words were amplified on both sides of the Berlin Wall, reaching both East and West Germans, according to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

President Reagan gave the speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

“Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe,” said Reagan.

“Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar.”

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Reagan went on, “As long as this 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.”

He added, “Gen. 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.”

Said Reagan, “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” as the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration has recounted. 

For nearly three decades, Berlin was divided not just by ideology — but by a concrete barrier that was a bleak symbol of the Cold War, stated National Geographic.

As the U.S. and the Soviet Union battled for supremacy in space, they were also locked in an equally intense competition on Earth in Europe. 

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“Cold War tensions ratcheted up even further in 1961, when the Soviet-backed government in East Germany began building the Berlin Wall,” notes CBS News. 

“The Berlin Wall was designed to seal off East Berlin from the part of the city occupied by the three main Western powers (U.S., Great Britain and France), and to prevent mass illegal emigration to the West from the Soviet Bloc.”

The Berlin Wall was “erected in haste and torn down in protest; the Berlin Wall was almost 27 miles long and was protected with barbed wire, attack dogs and 55,000 landmines,” says National Geographic.

More than 25 years after the Berlin Wall first divided the city’s East and West — and after President Reagan gave his famous 1987 speech — it was not Mr. Gorbachev but the German people who finally tore down the barrier on Nov. 9, 1989, noted Time Magazine. 

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“The story of the Berlin Wall is one of division and repression, but also of the yearning for freedom — and the events that led up to its toppling are no exception,” says the same source.

“Less than three years after President Reagan’s personal demand to General Secretary Gorbachev, the wall was in fact torn down,” David Trulio, president and CEO of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, told Fox News Digital. 

“A piece of it, formerly an actual instrument of oppression, stands a short walk from President Reagan’s final resting place in Simi Valley, California,” he added, “and is now an inspiring symbol of the vision, moral courage and strength it took to overcome tyranny in the Cold War.”

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Trulio also said, “Since the Reagan Library opened in 1991, millions of people have laid their hands on this chunk of the wall — literally touching a piece of history — and reflected on President Reagan’s contribution to spreading the cause of freedom.”

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Maureen Mackey of Fox News Digital contributed reporting.

 

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