Tags: America's Forum | Ronald Reagan | State Department | Speech | Craig Shirley

Reagan Defied State Department With Famous Speech

By    |   Friday, 07 November 2014 12:29 PM

With the 25th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall approaching this weekend, author and President Ronald Reagan biographer Craig Shirley recalled the behind-the-scenes back and forth that took place during the editing of Reagan’s famous 1987 speech at the Brandenburg Gate imploring Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "Tear down this wall!"

"With domestic speeches the presidents give, they go through the political shop and they go through the White House public affairs shop, but foreign policy speeches have for many years been vetted by the State Department and this was no exception," Shirley said Friday on America's Forum on Newsmax TV.

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"The very reason Reagan was able, actually, several years earlier to issue the term "evil empire" when describing the Soviet Union was because he was giving a speech to a group of evangelical pastors in Florida, so it didn't go through the normal vetting process of the State Department, who probably would have insisted time and time again that calling the Soviet Union an evil empire has to come out.

"But with the speech at the Berlin Wall, it had to go through the State Department. It had been put in there by Reagan and the State Department took it out. He got the draft back, he put it back in, it went back to the State Department and they took it out. The third time is that it came back and had been taken out, he put it back in and gave that historic speech, the one that virtually everybody who objected to it at the time later said, yes, it was the right thing for Ronald Reagan to say."

That speech, he said, turned out to be one of Reagan’s "greatest and most important" because it led to the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union, according to Shirley.

Shirley also reflected on Reagan’s rise to become one of the most revered conservatives in modern day history.

His impromptu speech at the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City put him in the national spotlight. Before that Reagan who had served as California’s governor and ran as a candidate for the 1976 Republican nomination for president had been viewed mostly as an actor who likely couldn’t perform without the benefit of cue cards or a teleprompter, according to Shirley. The speech turned out to be a game-changer, he added.

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"Reagan's impromptu, extemporaneous speech gives a brilliant proration on his view of the world, his view of nuclear arms, his view of the future," Shirley said. "He's talking about the future of the American people, something that a Republican hadn't done. Before that … they pretty much talked about the past and the present. He's talking about a future without nuclear war and without nuclear arms. It's visionary, it is Reagan's heart. It sets him apart from every other national Republican at the time, and really lays the ground work.

"It's not a concession speech at all. As a matter of fact, it lays the groundwork for him to run and win the nomination in 1980 and then win the general election."

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With the 25th anniversary of the tear-down of the Berlin Wall approaching this weekend, author and President Ronald Reagan biographer Craig Shirley recalled the behind-the-scenes back and forth that took place during the editing of Reagan's famous 1987 speech.
Ronald Reagan, State Department, Speech, Craig Shirley
Friday, 07 November 2014 12:29 PM
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