November 9, 1989: A Great Day for Liberty and Independence

Twenty years ago today, November 9, should be forever remembered as a truly great day in the course of human history. Without a shot being fired, few could believe the exhilarating fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain just a little over two years after President Ronald Reagan audaciously demanded, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

How was this advancement of human freedom achieved? Resolve and unity of purpose of people, motivated by the visionary leadership of Ronald Reagan and steadily supported by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and the unique moral respect of Polish-born Pope John Paul II. Lovers of Liberty all over the world were in solidarity with the cause of Lech Walesa and the shipyard workers in Gdansk, Poland.

A visit these days to Berlin does not provide one with the reality of the Berlin Wall. In 1983, I was a newly elected delegate serving in Mr. Jefferson’s seat in the Virginia General Assembly and was honored to be selected to join a bipartisan delegation of young leaders (with The American Council of Young Political Leaders) for an East-West Study Tour in Germany. Near Hamburg, we listened to the perspectives of many Germans, including the desire and goal of reunification of Germany. It was a goal that seemed impossible when our delegation drove through heavily armed security checkpoints on the East German border and the Berlin Wall.

More telling than any lecture were the faces of the people in East Berlin who stood passively in long lines to acquire a few vegetables. Contrast this impoverishment to the East German government leaders and their communist Cuban generals who were protected by goose-stepping troops at a soldiers memorial as they arrived in fancy Mercedes.

With thick concrete walls and barriers, rolls of barbed and razor wire, land mines, German Shepherd attack dogs, and sharp-shooting border guards in towers — all to keep people from escaping — the Berlin Wall was a brutal monument to the inferiority of the repressive communist system. Any government that uses such massive, guarded barriers to prevent people from leaving for Freedom is a testament to the abject oppressiveness of its depraved system.

Many people lost their lives trying to get out of East Berlin and the Soviet Bloc. And sadly, it sure seemed likely that any uprising or revolt would result in hopeless slaughter of unarmed people. That is why there was the resigned, hollow look in the eyes of the hundreds of drably dressed men and women standing in the long lines to get a few carrots or potatoes.

However, since the momentous fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain in 1989, there has been an exhilarating breeze of freedom and opportunity that has invigorated hundreds of millions of liberated people from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea.

It is heartening that on this 20th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, students across America are rallying to tear down a mock Berlin Wall at the exact time the Wall opened in Berlin, at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The colleges include: Arizona State University, College of William and Mary, Florida State, University of Connecticut, Cornell, among many others.

These young conservative activists are warning their peers about the endless misery, rationing, and despair that results from socialist policies and advocating for the principles of freedom, responsibility and opportunity.   

This initiative, part of Young America’s Foundation’s Freedom Week program, is designed to remind students of the lessons of the Cold War, which are all too often lost in history and policy discussions these days. Each year, two significant events are overlooked on many college campuses: the November 9 anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and Veterans Day in appreciation for those men and women who have served in our military.

On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and led to the collapse of the Soviet empire, tangibly symbolizing the failures of repressive, centralized economies. Even though Marxist and Socialist ideas have been soundly repudiated, some regimes and leftists still fervently preach these ideas. It is encouraging to know that there are young men and women on college campuses who have learned and appreciate the lessons of recent history and are willing to advocate for liberty and opportunity. If people all across America and the world remember the Berlin Wall, we will confidently choose to plant and grow new trees of liberty throughout the world and here at home.