Has Ronald Reagan written his own speeches
"Without the contribution of Ronald Reagan there would have been no reunification"
Bettina Klein: June 12, 1987, Berlin, Brandenburg Gate, west side, the then US President Ronald Reagan: "Tear down this wall!", They tear down this wall. Even in the United States, this phrase was considered extremely ambitious. At the time, the State Department, the State Department in Washington, did not like the President to speak to him at all. The Americans grabbed their heads and that was nothing against the reactions in West Germany, let alone in the GDR. For the Germans, Reagan was predominantly the actor-president with a preference for Star Wars, but at the time he militarily pushed the Soviet Union to the edge of its possibilities and thus contributed to the end of the Cold War, says his adoptive son, with whom I had the opportunity to speak in Berlin. Michael Reagan has opened an exhibition on the work of his father in the Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie and I asked him whether, in his opinion, Berliners did not sufficiently appreciate his father's role.
Michael Reagan: That's interesting to see. I think his contribution is not being appreciated enough. That's why we set up this Reagan room in the museum. I keep talking to the city of Berlin that Ronald Reagan's contribution should be brought into the spotlight a little more. Today I spoke to young people who didn't even know that there was once a wall here, and that's why they didn't know about reunification. Our information and clarification is certainly not sufficient, not because this is about my father alone, but because it is your story. Millions of people have experienced this firsthand. It shouldn't be hidden.
Perhaps it appears a little less because it has already died and others want to draw more attention to it. But I think it has to be said again and again: without Ronald Reagan's contribution, there would have been no reunification.
Small: How important do you think his role was in the whole process that culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall in the late 1980s?
Reagan: It was a very crucial role. One must not forget: As much as has happened here in Germany, the spark actually jumped in Poland, in Gdansk in the solidarity movement with Pope Johannes Paus, with Lech Walesa, with Ronald Reagan. These three, they worked together. Lady Thatcher, Vaclav Havel must be mentioned. These leaders got the ball rolling. Gorbachev only jumped on this wagon in 1985, when things were already in flux and he had no choice but to allow the Wall to fall. So these great leaders, they made history here. However, it is often forgotten that it was really Ronald Reagan who acted as a catalyst in his capacity as US President and who decisively gave the impetus here.
Small: What happened in those days and weeks before he came to Berlin, because your father by no means represented a majority opinion in the USA? To say this sentence, "tear down this wall!", That was also highly controversial in your home country.
Reagan: Well, my dad never swam with the mainstream of opinion. If he had done that, the wall would still be standing today and we wouldn't have the conversation we're having here. He was never just one to swim with. No, as early as 1962 in a conversation with the then Chief Public Prosecutor Robert Kennedy, when he asked what one could do to reunite Germany, he replied, "tear this wall down". He was governor then. He did not hold any political office in the national government and yet he said this sentence in 1962. Or in Reykjavik in 1986, when it came to abolishing the SDI and Star Wars programs - at least it was the demand of the Soviets - and when it came to the INF Treaty. Back then, in his role as president, my father said, "No, I'm not going to give this up," and that's how it started. In 1987 at this speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate, when even his own Foreign Ministry said to him, "please, please, don't say that this wall should be torn down, don't do it, please remain politically correct". He said "no!" and he pronounced this sentence. The whole world laughed at him and scoffed at him and said, "oh, it's just an actor".
And look: What happened on November 9, 1989? The wall was torn down. Look, this is where a piece of the Wall was sent to him in Silicon Valley, California. Do you think the West or the East sent it to him? It was the east. The people in the east got it. Why don't the others understand?
Small: Why do you think your father's appearance is no longer remembered in the way that many here in Berlin do?
Reagan: My father wasn't a smug guy who would have patted himself on the back. No, he was happy to pass the credit on to others. That came out again when we opened the memorial room for him in the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. He has said time and again, "Judge this, let others share in this merit". So he was kind of the dear boy in the game, and maybe that's why others are now taking the credit, so to speak. He was nice, I'm not that nice. I say he provided the decisive impetus. It is now a question of honoring him and highlighting him appropriately.
Small: Mr. Reagan, how interested do you think Americans are these days in what is happening right now here in Germany?
Reagan: Well, the US is pretty self-centered. Maybe they know from Germany that you can travel there quite nicely as a soccer team, even though they even lost to Spain. But what the wall was is unknown to many young people. Unfortunately, these young people have not experienced what it means to be unfree. So they cannot imagine what it means to lose their freedom. Or if you talk to young people here, in the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, for example, and ask what the Berlin Wall was, then you get incredulous astonishment, and of course the role of Ronald Reagan is just as unknown. Who was that? This self-sufficiency, this carelessness, that is really a disservice that we do ourselves, because this carelessness can ultimately lead to her becoming the enemy of the future, just as the Soviet empire was the enemy of the past.
Small: Michael Reagan, the son of the former US President. We recorded the conversation in Berlin.
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