tv President Reagans Berlin Wall Speech CSPAN September 4, 2017 3:30pm-4:56pm EDT
enhanced teaching tools to engage your students in discussions, with new content added regularly. many teachers across the country use these resources, you should try it too. it is free, quick and easy. go to c-span.org/classroom to sign up. this year is the 30th anniversary of president ronald reagan's visit to berlin where he delivered his tear down this wall speech. next, reagan's speech writer peter robinson and former u.s. ambassador to germany richard burt recall the president's speech and trip. the international center for journalists hosts this 90-minute event. >> good evening, everybody. please find your seats. good evening. marcus, thanks for setting up this wonderful event. ambassador burt, richard, mr.
robinson, and mr. ratnesar, members of the board and burns alumni in attendance, students and ladies and gentlemen. for me, it's a true pleasure and also an honor to be able to open this event today. i am pleased to see so many faces, some fairly young faces. i am particularly pleased knowing that students today don't necessarily cherish things that happened 30 years ago be it jon bon jovi, george michael or "dirty dancing," there have been cooler periods in history than the '80s. this is at least what my children keep reminding me of. this is, however, different, with president reagan's speech. [ speaking foreign language ]
from president kennedy's visit, might be better known in germany and the u.s. foreign policy nerds know that there is nothing like president reagan's addressing secretary general gorbachev with his call to tear down this wall. interestingly, the speech received very little coverage at the time. however, the chancellor immediately realized its impact. president reagan was a stroke of luck for the world, especially for europe. he would say after the speech. and maybe also the rather hysteric reaction of the eastern german leadership also gives us an indication of the strength of that speech. i myself refreshed my memories a
couple of days ago. after all, i was in new york at the time in 1987, so i didn't have a chance to see it live. it is indeed an impressive testimony. first and foremost, to president reagan's unconditional will to stand behind and side by side with his urieuropean partners, h germany and with the citizens of berlin. [ speaking foreign language ] i still have something back in berlin, is how he describes the very special ties every american president since 1945 had had to liberty in europe and to the city of berlin in particular. but reagan's speech is also a clear commitment to freedom, democracy and human rights, to those values that drove american
politics from the founding fathers to president lincoln through the 20th century until today. it is a commitment that is clearly reflected in this speech declaring unconditional support for european allies. and it is a commitment clearly shown when the people of eastern germany and the people of all of eastern europe stood up for their right for liberty and democracy. despite all the protests and the people's desire for freedom, we have to remember one thing. in the end, german unity was only possible because of our allies and neighbors, because they had faith in us. and we also have to recall that many people in europe, many governments were skeptical whether a reunited germany would be as peaceful as it had been in
the decades prior. the specter of the past was still very present. the american people and, first and foremost, its political leaders, did not have these doubts. i think i see this as the strength of the oldest constitutional democracy in the world that it recognized the people and the leadership that we the people is a power, a strength, a force in history that cannot be stopped. and so other partners, other countries in europe, were more hesitant to recognize this historical, unsptoppable force that was unfolding in eastern europe. without the support of the american leadership, of the american people, german reunification two years later would not have happened. it is a lesson in how important and how effective the
transatlantic alliance can be. how much we can change the world to the positive if we stand united. so, ladies and gentlemen, i find it as a nice coincidence that president reagan's speech fell into the same year as the birth of the arthur burns fellowship. what better connection could we think of for our event tonight. the clear commitment to freedom and transatlantic alliance could not be represented much better than in the common nation of the two. let us therefore welcome our panel of today and in particular the chairman of the fellowship program and the good spirit of this event and many other events
happening with the fellowship program. thank you for doing this, marcus. let's welcome marcus brauchli with strong applause. thank you. [ applause ] >> thank you very much, ambassador wittig, for the introduction and your continuing patronage of the arthur f. burns fellowship. i would like to thank the dean of cise who arranged for us to hold the event today. while he couldn't be here, his team had been very helpful. so thank you. today's panel, as the ambassador said, was organized to commemorate two events 30 years ago, the founding of the arthur burns fellowship and president reagan's speech in june 1987 at the brandenburg gate. let me start with the burns fellowship. the program was created to foster deeper understanding between germany and the u.s. and, more recently, canada as
well. every year nearly a dozen german journalists and a similar number of american and now canadian journalists go to each other's side of the atlantic and spend time in newsrooms learning and understanding the way the other countries think. many top journalists from both sides of the atlantic have participated in these intellectual sojourns. the program is supported by top news organizations who both send and receive journalists. the "new york times" has participated, the "wall street journal," "washington post" [ speaking foreign language ] npr and many others. the program is a non-profit that depends on contributions from companies including bmw, lufthansa, basf, goldman sachs and other, as well as individuals. there is a card on your chair, if any of you feel so inclined to make a contribution, we would be grateful for it.
the program is named for the austrian born economist who served presidents starting with dwight eisenhower in the 1970s. he trained economists and shaped post-whe pos post-war economic policy, fought inflation and cemented close ties between what was the u.s. and germany. he died 31 years ago when the program was established in his name. its goal, to strengthen the understanding between two powerful western allies has seldom been more relevant than it is today. the importance of the relationship was front and center in berlin 30 years ago this summer. it was there that president ronald reagan delivered one of his most memorable speeches. it was a call to tear down the wall that had divided a post world war ii world. an appeal to our common humanity and of the shared imperatives of freedom and dignity.
it is a call, i will say, that should be trumpeted again today. we are fortunate to have with us to talk about the speech three of the most knowledgeable people. former ambassador richard burt, on stage? berlin with president reagan and a trustee of the burns program. peter robinson, a white house speech writer who had primariry responsibility for the speech and the former time deputy editor who wrote a book on it roam ye romesh ratnesar. i will now hand it over to them. thank you very much.
we haven't rehearsed this. >> well, thank you, marcus. thank you, ambassador. it is a pleasure to be here and a delight to share the stage with these two gentlemen who both witnessed history and made some of their own. not just on that day in berlin but also throughout their careers. i will briefly just introduce them, although marcus has already got us started. ambassador richard burt, as many of you know, was at the center of a whole range of conversations that dealt with the end of the cold war. he was the assistant secretary for european and canadian affairs at the state department from 1983 to 1985. he was then the ambassador to west germany and later the principal negotiator on the strategic arms reduction talks with the former soviet union. ambassador burt was obviously in berlin on that day and will talk
about his role in the speech and what he witnessed when president reagan delivered those famous words. peter robinson was the chief speech writer on the "tear down this wall" address. he worked in the white house for five years as special assistant and speech writer to president reagan. previously he had been a speech writer for vice president george h.w. bush. peter is now research fellow at the hoover institution. he edits the hoover institute's quarterly journal. i hope you'll indulge us as we talk a little bit about the history of the reagan speech at the brandenburg gate. i think it's a fascinating history. so fascinating i wrote a book about it. the fact that it didn't sell a
whole lot of copies may mean that others did not agree with my assessment. nonetheless -- >> i bought too. >> you there. i should have sent you a free one. but the format will be we'll talk for about half an hour, talk about the speech, talk about its legacy, and then we'll open it up to questions from all of you. ambassador burt, i wonder if we could start with you. i was hoping you could just take us back to the period leading up to president reagan's visit to west berlin and give us a sense of sort of the mood among west germans in particular. what now seems inevitable is that the wall, as we know it, would come down in november of 1989. was that something the people were thinking about? did they think it was a realistic possibility at that time in june of 1987? >> that is really, i think, a
great question. it's probably the most interesting question, sort of understanding the impact of the reagan speech. and i guess i would make a couple of points that need to be taken into account. you talked about the impact on the west germans that day. but, of course, the people at the speech were not considered west germans. they were berliners. they were not citizens of the federal republic of germany. at that time berlin was still formally an occupied city. and so, it's interesting, one of the reasons i got to sit so close to the president when he was delivering that speech is that the chancellor of germany and the foreign minister of germany were not present because they were not recognized officials in berlin. you had the governing mayor and representatives of the city council, but this was a kind of
an anomaly, still being an occupied city. and when i went to berlin in that era, i wasn't the u.s. ambassador, i was the high commissioner. and in fact, i had this strange responsibility of when i was in bahn, i would meet on occasion with my russian counterpart, the russian ambassador to the federal republic. but when i was in berlin i had regular meetings with the russian ambassador to the gdr, east germany. so i was talking to two different russian ambassadors giving this peculiar, unique situation of berlin being an occupied city. why this is important for the reagan speech is this. one of the things we had to do -- we always talk about the allies. in those days, we meant united states, britain and france and our collective responsibility to the city and citizens of berlin.
we all recognized that, in order to make it work, it had to get political support from home. it was not just enough that west germany and the west german parliament would support us financially, which they did, but we needed the public political support from the united states, from britain and from france. these countries, or at least the leadership, needed to understand why we were still hanging around defending berlin. and somebody -- it was probably the mayor, the governing mayor, who came up with the idea that this -- we should commemorate the 750th anniversary of berlin. now, i think that was probably a phony date. i don't think you could go back 750 years, find the first establishment of berlin. but it gained traction because it gave us an opportunity, because one of the big ideas was that during that year the heads of state of all three of the
allied powers should come to berlin. and sure enough, you had a visit from the queen. you had francois mitterrand, the president of france and, of course, ronald reagan. so that created the opportunity. and i always thought it was perfectly teed up for ronald reagan. this was an opportunity to talk about an issue that he believed in, that he would feel totally at home and comfortable with. what he didn't, i think -- and i don't think the white house -- peter, you can correct me if i'm wrong -- what i don't think they understood, and now i am getting to the heart of your question, was there was a weariness, a foo teagu -- fatigue, with the division of germany and of berlin. berlin was still an exciting place where a big youth culture and a great -- great place to be. but people really, i think, by
1987 had drawn the conclusion that the wall was not going to go away anytime soon. that it was -- it had become a kind of permanent fixture of life in berlin. meanwhile, in west germany i found a different sort of mentality, which was somehow the -- we -- the division of germany is, again, going to be semi permanent. nobody saw a way out of -- a way of reuniting germany. i remember very clearly going to a meeting that was convened by the center-right party in germany, the cdu, where they asked me and the russian ambassador to speak, which i found in itself a little bit unusual. and one of the things the russian ambassador said, you know, you have -- one of the things you guys have got to stop doing is talking about
reunification, it's not going to happen. i came back ferociously to argue that you -- whether you think it's going to happen next year or in ten years, it would be a terrible thing if the people of west germany gave up on the dream of reunification. but that said, i didn't think it was going to happen anytime soon. but what you had instead were numerous efforts by the german government, as they put it, not to try to bring the wall down but to transcend the wall. find ways of building up ties. it was known as the inter-german relationship. human contacts. find ways that a much bigger and richer west germany could help the east germans. and there was a lot of -- i'll stop my answer here, but there was a lot of mythology about east germany. and i learned a very -- in the west germany and in west berlin. i learned an important historical lesson. being close to a situation
doesn't necessarily mean you understand it. nobody in 1987, nobody in, really, 1988 or even into 1989 thought that there was going th kind of popular uprising in the east, and so there was a kind of a commitment to this sort of process of trying to find ways of increasing interaction between the two germanys to try to somehow ignore it on the one hand and on the other hand, try to make it -- try to ease the pain and the feeling of kind of historical inevitability of the division of germany. that's what made, in my view, the reagan remarks so refreshing and -- and -- and -- and -- and different because he stared head-on, standing in front of the berlin wall and challenged the east to bring the wall down.
>> well that's a great deal of context, and now i would like to know from party, how much of that did you know when you were assigned to write the remarks at the gate? tell us about how the whole process worked in the reagan white house and when did you get the assignment? when were you told you would write the speech and how did you start piecing together the elements of what was going to go into it? >> i will. may i begin by thanking the ambassador? for 30 years i've wondered about the correct pronunciation of -- [ speaking foreign language ] finally! i spent 30 years practicing. in a word, you brought me here after three decades to embarrass me, because in a word here we
have rick berg, immensely knowledgeable and that was rick berg at the time, as well and robinson in the reagan speech, we knew essentially none of this. by the way, you're right about the 750th anniversary being a sham because one of the first things i did in researching it was when was berlin founded? it wasn't founded. it just emerged. very briefly, and i truly am embarrassed in a certain sense after all these years, i'm embarrassed about my younger self because i was just the kind of idiot child stumbling along. what happened was the scheduling office was going to speak in berlin and it's the 750th anniversary. i can't recall who gave me the direction, it must have come from tony dolan and the chief speechwriter at the time and the president will stand in front of the berlin wall and the brandenberg gate will be visible behind him and that will be in
the shot and it will be a crowd of about 10,000, and i think in the event it was closer to 40,000 and speak for about half an hour. given that setting he ought to talk about foreign policy and that was really all the direction i was given. now, there's a back story that tony dolan was holding back a lot of direction. he wanted me to go do research in berlin unclouded, so to speak or with a clear mind, but then i did go to berlin with the american pre-advanced party, very briefly. four stops in berlin and the first was to the speech writer in trouble. i don't know how you convey to people who are not old enough to have seen it themselves. rick, this is a serious question. how do you convey what it felt like to stand at that wall? here it is still pock marked and
behind you, west berlin, color, motion, activity and people well dressed and they're driving beautiful mercedes and you look over that wall and everything is gray and way back behind the main thorough fare, i saw a couple of cars going by and i have a sense of feeling and i've never been in a place since and never have before where you just felt the weight of history, so i need the material. number two, i went to see your colleague, and the counsel was his title, john cornbloom. >> his title was minister. >> a sort of a step above the consul general. >> and john cornbloom filled me in about much of what you were saying and it was from my point of view, all negative material.
it was what the president shouldn't say and john cornbloom said, and don't have him sound like an antisoviet cowboy. we are in berlin. these people are acutely sensitive to the nuance and subtlety involved in east-west relations and by the way, and this must have been a point similar to the weariness. they've gotten used to the wall. don't make a big thing about the wall. number three, i was given a ride in the u.s. army helicopter over the wall, and it looked bad enough from inside west berlin. you could forget about it in a moment and you turn the street and there it would be at the end of the street, but from the air, incomparably worse. from the air you could see on the other side, dog runs, guard towers. this, for some reason, i found this especially striking and there were very large areas of
carefully rigged gravel and used the walkie talkie to ask the pilot what's going on with the gravel? and the pilot explained that was for the young east german guards. if anybody ever thought he'd let a member of his family escape in the middle of the night he'd have to explain the footprints in the gravel to his commanding officer. i just thought, these bastards, they thought of everything. you could feel angry. anyway, in the final event, i broke away from the american party and left downtown, and went to a suburb called -- [ speaking foreign language ] which i've also been practicing for 30 years. dita eltz and we had mutual friends and they had about a dozen or 18 of their friends
just so i could meet some berliners and it was a physician. a couple of people who taught university professors. in any event, i said i've been told that you've gotten used to the wall. is it true? silence, and i thought oh, my goodness i've committed just the faux pas that john cornbloom doesn't want the president to commit, but then the silence ended. one man raised his arm and pointed and said my sister lives just a few kilometers in that direction, but i haven't seen her in more than 20 years. how do you think we feel about that wall. they went around that room and every person spoke about it. they hadn't gotten used to it. they'd stopped talking about it, was there weariness, that's true, but they hated it every day. and ingaborg eltz, she just died a couple of years ago, she said if this man gorbachev is serious with this talk, he can prove it
by coming here and getting rid of this wall. well, i was there to listen as if i was ronald reagan and this is what i mean, rick, when i say i was just this idiot child wandering around berlin looking for something the president would respond to, and i knew he would respond to that, so back to washington and the very painful process of writing. i had the technical problem that part of the immediate audience would be german and the american audience would be obviously -- and [ speaking foreign language ] >> when the client is the president of the united states, give him the best line. there was talk about how that speech was resisted by many of the foreign policy professionals and in the end, it was ronald reagan alone who just said no, no, no. i want to say -- there's one
other moment. should i take another -- the president meeting in the oval office and we were talking about a number of speeches and the president got to my speech and he has well, no, that's a good draft. that's a good speech. i always want more from ronald reagan, right? right. and so we speech writers would go in and you might have time for one question, so i explained that i'd been told in berlin that people would be able to hear the speech on the other side of the wall, and that if the weather conditions were right they might be able to hear it as far east as moscow itself on radio. mr. president, is there anything in particular that you would like to say to the people on the other side, the communist side of the wall and this is one of those moments and i don't have many, and i could just picture it and he sat like this and thought for a moment and said, well, there's that passage about tearing down the wall. that's what i'd like to say to them. that wall has to come down, and
that was the marker because then when it went out to staffing everybody understood the president had already said he particularly liked to deliver that line which enabled it to survive three weeks of quite a lot of pushback and -- in any event. ambassador, what i've always loved about that is the inspiration for that line was a german. it was a german. >> let me add just a quick anecdote to this because i saw. i saw -- i can't remember when i saw the draft, but i saw that language, and i really liked it. >> oh, yeah. it was authentic reagan. you couldn't ask reagan to come to berlin and stand before the berlin wall and not say that, but as a courtesy we finally got the final draft, i think, 24 hours in advance and as a courtesy i gave it to the
governing mayor of berlin. i mentioned him already, everhart deacon and he read it and immediately came back to me and said you've got to take this passage out. you've got to take this passage out, and i said, mr. burgermeister, we can't do that. this is ronald reagan, and he said -- i said what's wrong with that? he said we've got intelligence that there will be protests on the other side of the wall and there were a smattering of protests, nothing very large, but we're afraid that if they hear that this will create or potentially create a riot, unrest and we could have a real scene on our hands and i just said, look, there's no way. i said, you don't know how hard it was to get ronald reagan here this year, and it was.
it was very difficult to kind of get that organized the way we did. i said, you've got to allow him to make these remarks and he relented. >> rick -- i'm sorry. >> no, go ahead. >> rick and i will bring you back. >> you're making my job easier. i was not part of the traveling party so this is especially fascinating because you were there and saw it all with your own eyes, but ken duperstein, the chief of staff, and ken duberstein was the ranking member of the staff and i get what happened just before the speech from ken. they're leaving the venice economic summit. they're boarding air force one. the fax machine at the back of the plane begins clacking away because the state department is submitting, by my count it would have been the seventh alternative draft, and they're considering this and the president makes his final
decision in the limousine on the way to the wall and ken said they talked about it and then ronald reagan leaned over and the jump seats because he leaned over and he slapped ken on the knee, and he said the boys at state would kill me for this, but it's the right thing to do. >> that's a real reaganist. >> what was reagan -- what was the opinion of reagan among the germans at that time? if i'm not mistaken there were a lot of fears and there were even some -- there were some protests by leftist groups, anarchists and the like in the days leading up to his visit. what did people think of ronald reagan at that time? >> reagan's image in germany went through, i mean, almost 180-degree change over the years. the first time i was with ronald
reagan in germany, i think was in -- i think it was probably 1982, and he was visiting baan, and there were 200 to 300,000 protesters protesting the deployment of pershing ii and nuclear armed missiles. in germany who had the capability of striking the soviet homeland and this was an enormously controversial, difficult decision and the chancellor cole was holding firm along with foreign minister gencher to that decision and that alliance decision in the face of not only tremendous public from test, but a -- but a very ferocious russian
propaganda, fake news in the modern parlance campaign to stop this deployment threatening what they called a new ice age, and so a lot of the left blamed reagan for this. he was a warmonger. he was going to get us into a nuclear war, but as time went on, things began gradually to shift. very importantly in 1986 reagan had his first summit meeting with gorbachev and -- it -- it was a very productive, optimistic meeting and both reagan and gorbachev went back and i think the shared belief that they could do business together. needless to say, in 1987 the
same year as the 750th anniversary, was there the famous meeting in rakovic where the two leaders were talking about substantial reductions in nuclear weapons, and in 1987 the two sides also were able to agree to the famous zero option, those missiles which were deployed in 1983 and reagan called for a zero option and people laughed at him saying that's just a smoke screen for deployment and it's a facade in 1987 and an inf treaty was signed which did create the option. so by '87 people began to say, gee, this guy reagan is getting things done with gorbachev. he has a channel with gorbachev. so when he said mr. gorbachev, tear down this wall. it wasn't just a propaganda
line. people understood at that point that reagan had a relationship with gorbachev and -- and it -- and it wasn't just a relationship of being they were good pals. it was a serious relationship where they were both prepared to press each other for -- for important reasons, and so -- so -- so i think by that time reagan was -- was beginning to be treated seriously and is seen as it was the beginning and margaret will remember this, people began to realize that reagan was becoming a foreign approximately see success, that he was transforming the east-west relationship so it was the perfect time for him to give that speech in the context where u.s.-russian relations were
headed. >> so when he finally did deliver this famous line, you were there on the days when he delivered it. what ran through your mind? >> did you have an inkling that this would be, this defining statement not just of the reagan presidency, but in a lot of ways the cold war itself. what was your reaction in that moment? >> i think i can remember it. the first thing i have to say is i was very scared because immediately, and i don't know if you remember this, but immediately after that event there was another event at temple hoff airport and this was an event for the american community which was substantial and we had 6,000 u.s. army and an armored brigade deployed there and we had a big air force presence and all kinds of other u.s. personnel there, and i was
asked to introduce the president to the american community, but they then told me about five hours, six hours before they wanted to televise it on german television. i introduced him in german. i introduced the president in german, and it was my finest hour. to do that. i only mangleded a few words in german, but, no, to go back to the reagan speech, i -- i -- i knew it was a great applause line, and i knew it was authentic ronald reagan, but history as president obama said, has an arc and we would fefr celebrate that famous speech if the events of 1989 had not transpired the way they did, and -- you know, the fact of the
matter is that as i said before being too close to an event sometimes can make you blind to the bigger reality and i don't think any american official and maybe with the exception of ronald reagan really thought that mr. gorbachev would tear down that wall or more precisely that the -- people of east germany would tear down that wall, but you know, before we run out of time here i want to make one other point because while we focus the reagan speech and we focus on the wall actually coming down as it did and we focus as we should on the diplomacy that immediately followed that, the discussion says between the then east germans and the officials in baan and the allies including the soviets and the so-called
two plus four process, we focus on the german-american cooperation which really made the reunification of germany possible, and the cooperation between george bush and cole. what we don't focus enough on, in my view, is the tremendous effort and sacrifice and courage and optimism that the german people showed through the whole decade of the '90s into this century in creating a -- a remarkably successful unified germany. what an achievement? what an achievement. a country that is now, in public opinion polls is always the most respected country in the world. a country that has developed a
really functioning social market economy. a country that has supported a european unity and a country even given a lot of the static that we've had over the last couple of weeks between the german-american relationship. a company that i know -- a country that i know is in the transatlantic relationship. this is -- since this was unthinkable in 1987. the germans are capable of doing and i don't think frankly in this country or other countries they get enough credit. >> may i? >> go ahead, peter. >> when i was with vice president bush not long before you went with the president to baan, the vice president visited germany before germany. >> you were along. that's exactly right! >> and we had rocks thrown at -- >> that's exactly what i was going say! yes, yes, yes. exactly. our bus was pelted with rocks. we had to get under our seats.
rocks coming through the window and then there was another event -- >> this was a missile deployment era. >> exactly! and i just -- and there's helmut cole we met helmut cole and the police are holding the crowd at bay and the crowd is jeering and hissing, and i thought to myself, wow! ronald reagan comes under pressure at home. bruce springsteen had sung at an anti-nuclear concert in central park which i think is the biggest gathering in the united states, and huge demonstrations at hyde park, but no one faced pressure like the germans themselves and the courage they had to stand up, frankly, to stand up to large segments of their own people to insist on remaining part of the west when the temptation to neutrality was so powerful for so many years and also the insistence, the
explicit insistence given all of german history on creating a good society. i just think it's one of the most impressive efforts in human history, really. >> all right. all done. >> let me just ask one more question and then open it up to all of you. peter, it's a question that took a little bit of a bank shot, but we live in an era of 140 characters and 24-hour news cycle. do presidential speeches still matter the way they did 30 years ago? could a future president or this president give a speech like the one ronald reagan delivered in west berlin and have people talking about it 30 years from now or are we just in a different era in which that kind of presidential rhetoric just doesn't have the same resonance? >> the short answer is we'll find out. my onus is pigz and the longer
answer is the speeches have to matter still. i'd love to hear what other people have to say about this because my mind is not made up, but my goodness. everything has changed in the last 2500 years, but what paracles was doing and what ronald reagan did, you stand before your fellow beings and attempt to deploy arguments and persuade them. you establish a community of feeling and you attempt to deploy arguments, and i just am not persuaded that that can be done in 140 characters. i just have to believe, if it comes to that, you have friends in the white house, rick. if it comes to that, the current chief executive gave a very good speech to a joint session of congress, and i think it would
have resonated a while longer if you hadn't undercut it by tweeting the next morning and he gave a pretty remarkable speech in saudi arabia just ten days ago and those speeches had the opportunity to move policy to establish an agenda to show members of congress what he wanted to do, where he wanted to take the country to move the arab world in a way that i don't think my formulation would be not only could he not have done it with the 140 characters, but i wish he'd knock it off because the spooches are a lot better than the tweeting and the tweeing undercuts the administration's own, in my judgment, quite noble efforts. so there's my answer. i think we still need speeches, but we shall see.efforts. so there's my answer. i think we still need speeches, but we shall see.judgment, quit. so there's my answer. i think we still need speeches, but we shall see. with that, i'd like to open it up to all of you.
i want to go to the back there. okay, we'll bring mikes to you. if you could stand up and just state your name. >> good evening. my name is wing chen. a short question about the security issue at the time, and i'm a little bit concerned about the security prevention during his speech and the berlin wall. would you mind recall about the circumstances? >> you mean the physical security? >> oh, yes. even today it is still a big issue for an american president to give a speech at the wall just behind the iron gate. well, you know. i'm trying to remember -- you weren't there. i'm trying to remember, he may have had -- he may have had a kind of plexiglas.
there's plexiglas behind him so he can have the wall. i don't think there was needless to say again, i want to remind you that this speech took place in the american sector, remember very well in the first visits to berlin when i was the ambassador in baan, but i'd go to berlin and one of the first visits and i was a spy to the bridge and i asked my aides how will we keep the press away and we'll just tell the police to keep the press away. how are you going to do that? mr. ambassador, you don't understand. the police work for you, and i remember saying to myself, this is great. so we have, you know -- wait, listen, we really could control
the environment. we had the people, and it wasn't just the secret service. we had a very large american presence there and so i think people were comfortable with the security arrangements. margaret? let the record show this is my favorite journalist on the planet. >> thank you, rick. i was there. i was in the pool and sitting on the edge of the stage, so i just looked at a picture and what they have is a pale blue background, but behind the president and you and it was cle clear plexiglas so you could see through to the graffiti-marked wall. it's an incredible picture and the brandenburg gate is behind, but there was nothing in front of you all. >> right. i think that's right. >> actually, i'm going to ask peter a question -- just give us
a little more of the back and forth of the state department. are you saying george schultz was against? ? where was weinberger and rick tuned in, too. >> so, you need to bear in mind that howard baker had fairly recently before had become chief of staff and he had brought with him tommy griscon and he was communications director. so robinson's first step on coming back from berlin, at first i sold dolan on the idea of building a speech around the call to tear down the wall and we immediately, before i put a word on paper went over to see tommy griscom and said yeah, i think that might work. drafted it and then, this is a terrible admission, but the record is what it is. and the president will rome and
the venice economic summit and the whole speech writing staff worked fast to finish a whole bundle of speeches and tony dolan, the chief speechwriter waited until one friday afternoon and it would be friday may 15th or 16th until he heard the helicopter descend into the south lawn and he wrpt to the west wing and said to the staff secretary who was also knew. the president has a big wad of speeches, and you better give it to him to look over at camp david and the staff secretary said why that makes sense, i'll do it and as the helicopter took off, the president had my draft with him. it was very rare. you can count on the fingers of one hand the times the speech writers figured out how to get a draft to the president before it went out for staffing and we met him the following monday and then he said well, there's that line in the draft about tearing down the wall. that's what i want to say.
he'd seen the draft and he singled out that passage before it went out to staffing and then it went out to staffing and the national security council opposed it and rick burke did not call. ridgway called and tom griscom told me afterwards that he went down the hall and howard baker called him down the hall to the chief of staff's office and there was george schult who was representing his state department and tom griscom said you don't understand, mr. secretary, this is the line in the speech. this is going to get press and the president had said he particularly wants to deliver it and then ken griscom told me in italy the fighting never stopped. in fact, god bless them really, and i look back on them and i was 30 years old and knew this much of what rick berg knew. this much of what these foreign
policy professionals knew, but damn it, i'd been to berlin and i'd talked to the berliners so i was going to defend that draft and tommy called me over to his office and there seated waiting for me is colin powell, number two man on the national security council, decorated general. used to talking to his troops in a certain way and he gave it to me with the bark off, and i 30 years old and knowing no better got back in his face and this went on and on and finally ken duberstein told me he felt he had to take it back to the president which is the kind of staff failure and the last thing you want to the do is have your president revisit a decision, but the fighting wouldn't stop. so ken duberstein sat the president down in the garden of some italian palazzo and they talked about it and then ken said -- this was a couple of days, the state department didn't stop and on the day they went to berlin he tried to get another alternative, but this was the fundamental decision and
then ken said, told me when he came back that they talked about it and the president -- he had the president read the passage and the president, you can see he decided and the twinkle came into his eye and he said, ken, i'm the president, aren't i? yes, mr. president, we're clear about that line. so i get to decide if that line stays in? yes, sir, it is your decision. well, then, it stays in. >> also knowing, having gone through many ronald reagan presidential speeches when i was assistant secretary, if you got something out of a speech, but you knew, you'd learned very quickly that if ronald reagan liked it it got back in. he actually -- he spent an enormous amount of time on his
speeches. you have much more reverence for the speech process and the importance of speech making probably than i did at the time because i was a real policy wonk and thinking about arms control proposals and so on, but i realized that reagan probably because of being an actor understood the power of a speech. >> that's right. >> so he, you know, we would get speech drafts back. we wrote a very important speech at the beginning of the second reagan administration where george schultz, finally vanquished cap wineberger and richard pearl and this was pre-gorbachev, what it was, the message was we're going to start talking to the russians and here are the categories we're going to talk about and reagan invited the whole dip the maic core to the east room of the white house to give that speech and schultz
and i really wrote that speech and schultz insisted it didn't go to the speech writers. he wanted it to be word perfect and we got a draft back that was all written up. i saw it, and he said who got a hold of the speech at the white house? no. that's ronald reagan's handwriting. >> it's extraordinary for those students in the audience, if you go to the reagan library and you can ask for the presidential handwriting files and it's remarkable how many speeches and especially the first half of the precedence and even right until the end. >> there was a lot of back and forth between the speech writing operation and the state department and the national security council so if you listened to the speech i've always maintained that after it was on the wall it becomes boring for about five minutes and that's how the state department got it. it's probably true.
>> it is very nice, too. >> the ending comes being bah, bbah, back, but on that line, and -- >> factualwhen you said you lov because it was ronald reagan, that was the point and you couldn't put this man at the berlin wall. you couldn't state department, blah, blah, blah, blah, you just couldn't do that to him! >> yes, in the -- >> i am curious if you could talk a little bit about your thoughts on sort of the immediate future of the u.s.-german relationship. obviously, as several speakers have noticed it is a particularly relevant week for us to be talking about this in light of nato and the aftermath of nato if you can talk about sort of where you think things
are going and what the challenges will be in these coming months? >> i'll do it very briefly and the ambassador can do a much better job than me, but you know, i think that we may be overreacting a little bit, and i think we've got to sort of distinguish from fundamental issues and let's call them boorish behavior on the other hand. you know, in the case of the u.s.-german relationship there are really three issues that can be discussed. one is a sort of security defense issue and i -- and i -- and i see some merit in the american effort to ask the europeans and the germans in particular to do more that said and those of you who follow the issues that the europeans and the germans have already started to do more.
they made commitments both in the wales nato summit and they are spending more. so but if the president claims to want that and push a little harder i can understand that. in the long sweep of history, the current allocation of spending is probably unsustainable so the europeans will need overtime to do more. i think that ironically this whole debate about maybe, we can't depend on the past and the american guarantees and so on. ironically will lead the europeans to do more and cooperate more closely. i do think it has been my own judgment, a terrible mistake on the part of the president not to endorse article 5 in a
full-throated way. particularly standing in front of the memorial to 9/11, and there was an irony there, too, given the fact that article 5 was ever invoked in the history of the alliance. so that's my view on the security defense issues. on the economic issue, i think the germans have the right and they have the stronger argument here. i mean, let's recognize the amount of german investment in this country. let's look -- and there are more bmws produced in south carolina than there are in bavaria. look at substantial investments not only with the car companies including mercedes and volkswagen, but siemens, tremendous presence in this country. there's tremendous german investment in real estate and all sort of asset categories and to sort of blame the germans
because they're sober and pursue kind of economic policies than some of their neighbors or for that matter, the united states, i think it's crazy. it's illogical, in my view, and that's not an economic argument and it's a cultural argument and you don't inform policy and the culture and finally, i just hope in the third area, and i just hope the united states continues to adhere to the paris accords. if you could tell from our remarks, there are so many shared interests and shared values between the united states, germany and europe as a whole that i think we can work through this admittedly difficult period.
yes, the gentleman in the -- >> thank you. mark landler. i wanted to pick up on something about what rick burke said about was said about mikhail gorbachev in the run-up for the speech and the decision for the phraseology to be as personal as it was, and it wasn't soviet leadership tear down this wall and it was mr. gorbachev, tear down this wall. was there a sense on the president's part that making it that personal would have some kind of resonance with gorbachev. was he challenging a guy he had come to see as almost as a friend or was it not as intentional as that? i think in my view, it was very intentional. i remember listening to reagan talk about his first meeting in gorbachev in geneva and maybe you remember this, too, and
there were in the meetings that they had in the morning were sort of large groups and maybe ten, 12 people on each side of the table, and the idea arose of -- let's let the two leaders take some time after lufsh nch sit down and talk together and this is something he fantasized about. he was frustrated in his first administration and he once famously said they keep dieing on me, but remember, he had breshnev, andropov and korie, in ko, and i remember because i went to all of these funerals with george w. bush. he was frustrated and he wanted and i think all presidents in one form or another and certainly that's true for donald trump, that he really wanted and
by the way, it wasn't so true for barack obama and i never under stood that, but he wanted to sit down with a russian leader and try to work it out. so he immensely enjoyed that one-on-one, but there was something he said. he came back after that first meeting, one-on-one, and he -- as they were saying good-bye, the cars and limousines were coming by to pick them up gosh chef said to him, according to the president, gorbachev said to him, god bless you, and then again, according to president reagan he saw that gorbachev had -- was wearing a crucifix, and that really struck reagan. i mean, to be fair, i would say a kind of average and somewhat simplistic view of the soviets
and the russians and, you know, and being atheists and anti-religion. the fact that he sort of saw the fact that here's a man who is religious, who is a believer really had a big impact on reagan, and i think he felt from that moment on that this is somebody as margaret thatcher famously said, somebody he could do business with, and it was funny. prior to that, just one more -- >> no, no. >> prior to that meeting one of the first and i think even before margaret thatcher saw gorbachev, i think brian mull rooney who was the prime minister of canada had a meeting with gorbachev and he came back and, of course, in the -- in the oval office reagan said tell me about gorbachev. that was the first question he asked and brian mullrooney said
i thought he was leonev breshnev in a $1,000 suit and he couldn't have been more wrong, you know? and it's just funny that somehow mullrooney didn't capture -- wasn't able to figure gorbachev out in the same way that ronald reagan was -- >> we -- there was a meeting, don regan is now chief of staff. >> oh, boy, we had a speechwriter's meeting with regan, and i kind of liked regan, to tell you the truth, although he was a catastrophe as chief of staff and the president wants you to lighten up on gorbachev. and we said, like hell he does, you want us to and regan just shrugged and so he arranged a day later and we went into the oval office and don regan said mr. president, i told him they
want to go easier to gorbachev and they won't take it from me. and reagan said and this, i think this fellow gorbachev is different from the others and he talked about and he went on and said, i think he's serious about getting out of afghanistan and nobody, and this hadn't been in the washington post and i hadn't heard anybody speculate that gorbachev wanted to get out of afghanistan the first time i heard any such thought was in the oval office from the lips of ronald reagan and we speech writers walked out. what do you do when ronald reagan goes soft on communism? we thought, so years later, this is years later. mike reagan and mikhail gorbachev had a speaking gig going. this would be in the '90s and mike and i are friends so he had me help him with questions and
this is on the stage in sacramento california and the question is mr. gorbachev, 1953, the soviets move in to put down the east germans. in '56 they do it in hungary and they prove into prague and in '89 you didn't. why not? and gorbachev said through his longtime translator pavel, the man with the mustache was still translating and gorbachev said, michael to mike reagan, you must understand your father and i shared christian morality. christian morality and then gorbachev said, when i was growing up, my grandfather was the communist in our town and my grandmother was always a believer and we'd have a communist meeting and up would go pictures of stalin and lenin and as soon as the communists would leave my mother would put
them down and put icons of st. michael and st. andrew. my grandmother would live with us as my career progressed and she would go to church every day and said i'm going off to pray for you atheists. don't make a mistake, i'm a communist. i'm a good communist, but we share a certain morality. so reagan was on to something. he was on to something. he saw it. >> yes, sir? >> hello. my name is edward losanski. >> why was it for gorbachev to extend his hand, and they ended up and the end of the cold war, and they try to do same and he's called a traitor and all of
these calls for impeachment and so what's the difference? putin also goes to church presumably. >> putin does claim to be a very religious guy and he's played a goal in restoring the centrality of the orthodox church in russia which is interesting. it's one of the geisss, if tu will, of putin and he seems to have different kinds of geisss, but you know, i don't think that's the problem. the problem right now with russia, i have to say as every day goes by in this town it becomes more of a domestic political issue and less of a foreign policy issue. i happen to be one of those people who believes that it proeshly is possible to get somewhere with the russians right now, i think for a variety of strategic reasons. putin wants to try to see if
it's possible to get a deal that's consistent with his interests, and i think he's in the long term and the russians are playing with a weak hand economically, demographically. i don't think, but -- and i think for one reason or another that i don't want quite entirely understand, trump wants to do business with putin. he's never really explained why other than to suggest he thinks he can get along with putin and he's never provided a kind of thought-through, strategic rationale for some kind of russia -- i do think it is more of a strategic point. i do think if you want to do business with russia one of the first things you want to do is have a very strong, united arc
liance with your nato allies, and we're not doing that right now, and i think that's a mistake. i do think it's become a domestic political football. i do think there is a kind of hysterical element to the debate about russia in washington today. i think the democrats -- i think there are some democrats, we see this as an issue you can wound the president. i think other democrats see it as actually and convinced themselves that if the russians hrpt intervened in our presidential election that hillary might have won. i don't know, but i think the domestic assets of the issue are dominating the process and reducing the room for maneuver for the administration to actually try to get something done with the russians at this
point. >> can i try a little bit of the reagan example and see what you think of it? >> reagan didn't just talk to gorbachev. take two terms of the reagan administration and you mentioned that in 1987 and '88 was when they signed the imf treaty, but ronald reagan proposed most of the terms of that treaty way back in 1981 and the russians walked away from the table. >> they walked away from the table and i remember this very well in 1983 after the downing of kal and 007. >> well, the point is, since we're at the nitsy school and '81 is when this event took place and reagan is rejecting the jimmy carter two-track option on the negotiations and he's adopting the 00 option which is if the soviets remove all their missiles we won't put
a single missile in place, right? >> that was totally consistent with the nato december 12th 1979 double track decision. >> this is not an act of defiance against nato at all and paul nitsa says mr. president, the soviets have an investment in their imfs of hundreds of millions of rubles and you're asking me to tell them that we're about to renter that investment worthless. mr. president says paul nhtsa, after whom this school is named i don't each know how to say that with my soviet negotiating counterpart, and ronald reagan said well, paul, you just tell the soviets you're dealing with one tough son of a bitch, but the point is he laid out a hard, negotiating position, he rebuilt the military and started spending money on the sdi research. >> correct. >> all of that before it became time -- >> correct.
>> -- time to talk to the soviets. first you demonstrated strength and you built the alliance or reaffirmed the alliance. >> it's more logical in retrospect. remember, was there nobody to talk to in the early years. >> if i could just add one point, i think that -- and it goes to mark landler's question, reagan didn't negotiate eastern europe. we had a vision of a europe united, whole and free, if you look at the memoranda of conversations of the summits between reagan and gorbachev. reagan did not put eastern europe on the table. he believed that we had a vision and that was not negotiable. the negotiated arms control and how to avoid armageddon. i think eastern europe was something reagan felt about strongly and it was not something that we would find some sort of compromise. >> it wasn't -- we never, ever and this happened in the first
year or so of the bush administration. it was one thing to be shocked and the surprise of the berlin wall and it was one thing to be shocked and happily surprised by the collapse of the soviet union which you know happened in the early '90s during the bush administration. that allowed an opportunity to create a europe that was free and the collapse of the warsaw pact and the reunification of germany and it became want just arms control. it became a new geopolitical reality in europe. >> i think we have time for one more question. yes, sir? >> i have a question about the reagan summit, and i was just wondering what the discussion was there and what else they
might have had on the events that came later? >> well, there are several schools of thought about that. my good friend, as you may know, ken adelman who was the director of the arms control and disarmament agency has written a book last year which really tries to make the argument that there is kind of a direction line between rakovic and the collapse of the berlin wall and the end of the cold war. i don't see it that clearly, to t tell you the truth. it was more complex than to simply suggest that the one step led to the other. you know, rakovic was a very important turning point because it opened the opportunity for the first time, real, substantial reductions in nuclear weapons which we
achieved in '87 and then achieved with the treaty that i helped negotiate in the early '90s which had a 50% reduction in the strategic, the intercontinental range, nuclear weapons and that process has continued, unfortunately, not as rapidly as i'd like it to, but -- but the end of a cold war is a result of a number of different variables. ronald reagan deserves some of the credit in terms of the leadership and i think some of the pressure. on the one hand he put the russians under and on the other hand, the willingness it talk and to relief that pressure, but you know, there are a lot of people who can make a very compelling argument if you really want to understand yet soviet union collapsed and yet cold war ended, and look at what happened to the oil prices in the 1980s. the russian economy was hollowed out by the end of the 1980s and
we forget that as late as the mid-07s and late '70s, we saw there was still a debate about what kind of system works best and there was this debate about whether communism would actually work better and whether you got more economic growth. that debate totally disappeared in the '80s. anybody who visited moscow, all you saw was a bunch of old world war ii-era trucks belching smoke and empty streets and slogans that the russians didn't read any longer in the street so there were a lot of reasons that it collapsed. one thing that's also, i think, very important was the end of the so-called breshnev doctrine and people forget that sgruft a month or two before the berlin
wall came down, gorbachev visited east berlin and he gave a famous speech where he basically said, you know, you're on your own. you're on your own. we're not going visited east berlin, basically said, you're on your own, we don't have the capacity or the will fw any longer to tell you to really save your bacon if you get into trouble. and so gorbachev already began to change the rules of the game within the eastern bloc, and i think that gave a green light to a lot of people in the gdr when they had a sense that there weren't going to be hordes of russian troops moving into the cities of the gdr in the event of an uprising. >> reagan may have had a simple understanding of the soviets but got the essential points. he loved the stories on the
soviet economy. >> and jokes. >> woman buys a refridge raidgr. i'm sorry, madam, this isn't available for 20 years. all right. 20 years to this very day? 20 years to this very day. will you deliver it in the morning or the afternoon? madam, what difference could it possibly make? the plumber is coming in the morning. of course the end of the cold war is complicated. john paul ii's visit to poland and so forth. but reykjavik mattered, in my judgment, if at least this much. ronald reagan with sdi had brought to bear on the soviet union not just our conventional military strength where the soviets had matched us. they'd spent a decade and a half developing a blue ocean navy, a nuclear arsenal that roughly equivalent with ours, maybe, all
right, and with sdi, reagan say, no, no, no, no, we will also bring to bear in this struggle our economic and technical dynamism and whether we can hit, knock mislsz out of the sky and provide a perfect -- who knows. if we start doing research, we bring to bear our economic and technical dynamism and you can't match us and gorbachev went to reykjavik and jumped him, remember reykjavik was supposed to be a pre-summit summit. gorbachev went there essentially with a trap, said mr. president, look at all you can have. he went to bed that night feeling pretty well and the next morning mr. gorbachev said there's one little detail, confine sdi to laboratory testing and reagan said no. and that strikes me as decisive because gorbachev goes back to moscow, and the game is over. it's correct that they cannot
equal or technical dynamism. they just can't play that game. if he'd been able to put reagan back in the box, maybe they could have continued. who knows. at reykjavik, a certain kind of relationship ends. a certain kind of possibility for the soviet yunion ends. it's over. >> well, we disagree on that. >> well, we'll leave it there. we'll come back in 30 years. >> that's not bad. we went through 40 minutes and only one disagreement. >> please join me in thanking these two gentlemen for a wonderful -- [ applause ] interested in american history tv? visit our website, c-span.org/history. you can view our tv schedule, preview upcoming programs, and
watch college lectures, museum tours, archival films, and more. "american history tv." at c-span.org/history. tonight on "the communicators", the technology fair on capitol hill for members of congress. looking at the latest in drone technology and new security features for mobile phones. >> we want them to see innovation happening that is happening in the u.s., it's happening clear that life-changing innovation, whether it's in health care, it's in car navigation, it's in health and safety, it's in so many other things so they understand that the decisions they make have real-life kons quns consequences. >> watch "the communicators" tonight at 8:00 eastern on c c-spa c-span2. up next on "american history tv," harvard university researchers dan yol allen and
emily sneff, declaration of independence pavrnrchment manuscript. it's only the second handwritten parchment of the declaration known in the world. the other known copy is at the national archives where this 60-minute program takes place. >> two days ago, our nation celebrated independence day at the 241st anniversary of the day continental congress adopted the declaration of independence and broke ties with great britain. here at the national archives we held a public reading of the declaration and celebrated this holiday as we do every year with mu music, speeches and patriotic activities. july 4th is our single busiest day for visitors to the national archives museum. on that day, more than 5,000 people come to the rotunda to see the actual parchment document signed by delegates to the continental c