I almost overlooked this date, with all the family celebrations. But another reason to celebrate, and one of the most important speeches of the 20th century.
I remember it well. Gorbachev, who was treated like The Beatles when he came to the US later that year, was the man who would save us all. And here was Reagan, throwing down the gauntlet. Today, we’re told that everyone was just thrilled with his speech. But being a young Political Science major in ’87, I can remember more than a few expressing their angst over his blunt words. There we were, with a great leader like Gorbachev, ready to do everything he could to bring peace, and now? Way to tick off Gorby!
Of course in 1987, most of us knew that things were starting to turn. Even Reagan’s most ardent critics in 1985 admitted that when he came back to report on his first meeting with Gorbachev at Geneva, it was as if the whole world heaved a sigh of relief. We might even come through the Cold War without WWIII.Nonetheless, critics being critics, they quickly formulated the narrative that it was Gorbachev alone who would deliver us from Armageddon. Not Reagan. Trusting Reagan was, well, like this:
Even if peace came, we imagined it was a long road ahead. Perhaps in my children’s time. Grandchildren’s maybe? So it came as quite a shock when, only a couple years later in my last year of college, the wall that defined our world my entire life came crumbling down. It’s almost impossible to look back and remember how impossible that day seemed.
But so it was. And if there are those who give Reagan no credit at all for anything, it is almost impossible to take away the impact his bold speech had that day, 30 years ago.