It’s long overdue. A statue of former President Ronald Reagan was unveiled and dedicated on Friday at the U.S. embassy in Berlin, Germany. The seven-foot statue overlooks the site of the Berlin Wall.
In an unforgettable speech for those old enough to remember it, on June 12, 1987, President Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate and delivered this demand of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” He was calling for Gorbachev to open the Berlin Wall which had separated West and East Berline since 1961.
Reagan’s speechwriter, and current Hoover Institution fellow Peter Robinson noted in an article last week that this historic call for freedom was almost struck from the speech. Reagan advisers in the State Department and National Security advisers were hesitant of such boldness.
The passage – which includes the legendary line, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” – was almost cut after State Department and National Security Council advisers found them outlandish and provocative, Robinson said. In one case, a White House official thought it was even un-presidential, he recalled.
But after the Berlin Wall toppled – 30 years ago, on Nov. 9, 1989 – Reagan’s words, delivered not two years earlier on June 12, 1987, came to define a turning point in U.S.-Soviet relations. What was once deemed audacious had become auspicious.
Now, after numerous rejections from the Berlin government of a statue honoring Reagan, a member of the Trump administration boldly went forward and got the job done. The reason used by the Berlin government officials for the rejections is that Reagan didn’t need a statue, he was an honorary citizen of Berlin. The U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell began by naming the embassy terrace overlooking the Brandenburg Gate after Reagan. Then he suggested placing a sculpture on the terrace. The Reagan Foundation signed on and commissioned a bronze statue from the same sculptor who made the Reagan statue that graces the Capitol’s Rotunda in Washington.
The Berlin statue shows Mr. Reagan holding speech cards bearing the famous quote: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
The artist, who praised the location’s proximity to the site of the speech and that of the former Berlin Wall, integrated pieces of the concrete barrier into his sculpture.
Frank Henkel, who as a Berlin government official helped secure approval for the plaque despite opposition from center-left parties, said it was a shame the president’s likeness couldn’t be put on German soil.
“At least this extraordinary leader has been honored in this city that is in his debt,” said Mr. Henkel, now a state legislator with Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
After years of requests from the Reagan Foundation and others, including the Obama administration that failed to secure recognition of Reagan’s 100th birthday in Berlin in 2011, a small token gesture was made. Finally, in 2012, a small memorial plaque was placed on the pavement near the spot in the Tiergarten park where Reagan delivered his speech. It should be noted that Reagan is honored with statues in most former Soviet Union states in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in London and Tbilisi.
There was a teaser trailer leading up to the unveiling:
Coming November 8 pic.twitter.com/XUbGYBS1Wu
— US-Botschaft Berlin (@usbotschaft) November 5, 2019
And then the statue was unveiled on Friday:
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) November 8, 2019
As I said, this is long overdue. We should thank Ambassador Grenell for his boldness, like Reagan’s, in Berlin. Reagan’s speech is often referred to as an important part of the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. Reagan’s statue is on American soil in Berlin, but it’s there after 30 years. It’s important and well-deserved.
The French celebrated with chocolate.
— AP Europe (@AP_Europe) November 9, 2019