The 80s, like any decade, had its landmark moments: Tiananmen Square, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Thriller to name just a few. What makes this moment more special, yes more than Thriller, is that it solidified the fall of communism in Europe.
Reagan’s speech is the Gettysburg Address of my generation.
The USSR was already crumbling. Economic woes were plaguing the Soviets and Eastern Bloc countries. Many are still recovering two decades later. Reagan’s speech drove the nail in the coffin. Gorbachev had no other options after this speech.
Gorbachev had already been moving in the direction of democracy and capitalism through perestroika (economic reforms), but Reagan’s speech accelerated the timeline. As a result, starting just two years later, between the spring of 1989 and the spring of 1991 every Warsaw Pact member held competitive parliamentary elections for the first time in many decades. The wall was gone by the end of the decade, thanks in no small part to David Hasselhoff.
Thank you, President Reagan. Not just for what this meant for American safety and politics, but what it meant for those oppressed by communism in Eastern Bloc countries. The free men, women, and children of half a continent owe a immeasurable debt of gratitude.