I’M THE PRESIDENT, AREN’T I?

Russia is a problem today. Russia was a problem yesterday. It has been a problem since the Russian Revolution of 1917. More so following World War II. Then a hiatus from 1989 till the ascendency of Vladimir Putin to power.

By 1961, Berlin had been divided into two different entities. East Berlin under Russian control and West Berlin under U.S. and West Berlin control.

People did not like living under Russian domination in East Berlin. They began escaping into West Berlin. The Russians did not approve. In August 1961, construction of a Russian inspired wall began to keep the East Berliners in East Berlin. The wall composed of barb wire and concrete.

The wall became known as the Berlin Wall.

The wall eventually started coming down 28 years later in 1989.

During its existence, 100,000 persons tried to escape to West Berlin. Only 500 made it. One hundred forty died trying.

Ronald Reagan became President of the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev of Russia. They learned how to get along.

Gorbachev knew Russia was suffering. Its war with Afghanistan was costly and a drain on Russia’s economy. He also knew Russia had to reform its political system if it were to survive.

Reagan was scheduled to speak at the wall’s Brandenburg Gate on June 12, 1987. He wanted the speech to be special. He wanted it to make a point.

His speech writer was Deputy White House Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein. Duberstein wrote a dramatic line. Even more powerful when Reagan would deliver it with his acting fervor. The line: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Reagan liked the line. No one else. Secretary  of State George Shultz and National Security Adviser Colin Powell were vehemently opposed. The line too strong.

Those involved with the speech argued for weeks right up to the day of the speech whether the line should remain.

Reagan wanted the line in.

On the day of the speech, Duberstein and Reagan had this memorable exchange.

REAGAN: I’m the President, aren’t I?

DUBERSTEIN: Yes sir, Mr. President. We’re clear about that.

REAGAN: So I get to decide whether the line about tearing the wall down stays in?

DUBERSTEIN: That’s right, sir. It’s your decision.

REAGAN: Then it stays in.

Stayed in it did! Reagan’s words for history. Two and a half years later, the wall began to come down.

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