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Ronald Reagan's Speech Against Iron Curtain Existence

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In June of 1987, the world looked to President Ronald Reagan as he traveled to Berlin to address the impact of one of the world’s greatest symbols of communism: The Berlin Wall. For nearly twenty years, the “Iron Curtain” stood to sever communications between fellow Germans and ultimately divide the country into two regions, Communist East Germany, and Democratic West Germany. President Reagan intended to rally the people of West Germany against the Soviet Union and communism in favor of American democratic values. In his speech, Reagan first asserts his credibility as president to make his audience believe he is reliable, but goes on to provide unclear information. Shortly after that, Reagan captivates his audience by boldly demanding that the president of the Soviet Union tear down the Berlin Wall.

Reagan utilizes ethos to establish credibility by connecting himself to the success of democracy in America. In the exposition, Reagan clearly states, “We come to Berlin, we American Presidents, because it’s our duty to speak in this place of freedom.” Reagan quickly makes it clear that as a representative of America, a country that is globally recognized as a symbol of freedom and independence, he is the perfect person to speak about the lack of freedom in Germany. Looking closely at Reagan’s diction, he tells the audience that it is his “duty” to speak. Reagan picks his words carefully in order to strengthen his credentials by stating he is qualified to speak about freedom because as the elected president, he is a symbol of democracy.

While Reagan certainly represents democracy and freedom in America, he provides vague reasoning as to why the Soviet Union is failing in comparison to the United States. Yet, because he has made his audience aware that he is in a great position of power, he is a reliable speaker and can be trusted. Reagan first describes America as thriving, and more so than any civilization in the entirety of history. Then, he states: “In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind — too little food.” While Reagan provides examples as to why the Soviet Union is failing, these criticisms are unclear and ultimately up to interpretation. For example, while Reagan states that there is technological backwardness in the communist world, this criticism is well defined. Through these criticisms, it is clear Reagan is setting a serious and subtly aggressive tone by making the Soviet Union out to be the enemy. Regardless, the audience is unaware of life on the other side of the wall, and as Reagan has essentially accused the Soviet Union of mistreating Germany, the audience is easily convinced that Reagan comprehends the situation and that there must be truth in these accusations.

Later, Reagan goes on to employ rational thought in order to persuade his audience of embracing democracy. “In the Philippines, in South and Central America, democracy has been given a rebirth. Throughout the Pacific, free markets are working miracle after miracle of economic growth.” Here, Reagan explains that the economies of developing countries are starting to prosper by switching to democracy as their form of government. Through Reagan’s optimistic tone, it is clear he is implying that this connection must be universal. His point is that if East Germany was to embrace democracy like poorer, developing countries, they would be successful and no longer troubled by food shortages. With this simple ideology, Reagan’s optimism in establishing a democracy gives hope for his audience that if democracy can be successfully established in small countries, it is possible in East Germany as well.

Reagan’s speech is fairly well-known throughout the modern wall, and the most quotable line in the entirety of the poem portrays Reagan as a passionate advocate for democracy. “if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Considering Gorbachev was in attendance during this speech, Reagan is making another bold attempt to win over his audience by directly demanding that action be taken about the Berlin Wall. While this may not have been as effective as negotiating with Gorbachev over taking down the wall, Reagan pleases his audience by willingly putting his own life at risk in order to gain the attention of the Soviet Union in hope that the entirety of Germany will bask in the success of democracy.

While the “tear down this wall!” line is widely recognized, it is still important to acknowledge how Reagan builds up to this point. By establishing his credibility as one of the most powerful people in the world, Reagan is able to convince his audience that communism in East Germany is ultimately failing. Reagan is one of very few people in a position of power to inform his audience of the situation in East Germany. Despite using vague information, Reagan is delivering the only information available the world has heard about East Germany, which immediately makes anything he could say, easy for his audience to latch on to. Following his statements describing why communism was failing, Reagan aggressively demands that action be taken regarding the injustices caused by the wall. Reagan makes the choice between communism and democracy easy for his audience. While he could have been more specific when describing the political climate in East Germany, Reagan’s audience easily overlooks any vague information provided and ultimately views him as a passionate advocate for change in Germany.

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Ronald Reagan’s Speech Against Iron Curtain Existence. (2019, April 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from
“Ronald Reagan’s Speech Against Iron Curtain Existence.” GradesFixer, 26 Apr. 2019,
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