by Rick Hampson • USAToday
“Ich bin ein Berliner,” John F. Kennedy proclaimed in 1963. Of communism’s defenders, he roared, “Let them come to Berlin!”
Standing at the communist barrier dividing the same city 24 years later, Ronald Reagan cried, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
The 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9 raises a nostalgic question: Whatever happened to the kind of inspirational presidential oratory that helped bring down that wall — and Soviet communism?
In the history of the American presidency, such triumphs are few and fragile. Even those great Berlin lines might not have been delivered.
Kennedy’s famous words were not in the final draft of his prepared text. The signature line in Reagan’s speech was strenuously resisted by senior advisers., and it didn’t make a big impression at the time.
Today, when President Obama’s rhetoric seems unable to stop aggression in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the two Berlin speeches demonstrate the power of words to influence world affairs, as well as their limits. [Read more...]