FLASHBACK: Ronald Reagan delivered iconic ‘tear down this wall’ speech 26 years ago today

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Comparing current politicians to Ronald Reagan is a “terrible mistake,” said the man who wrote Mr. Reagan’s famous “tear down this wall” speech 26 years ago.

“Figures of the magnitude of Ronald Reagan only come along a couple of times in a century,” said Peter M. Robinson. “It would be a terrible mistake for anyone, but particularly for us Republicans, to judge current candidates by the standard of Ronald Reagan.”

Mr. Robinson was a featured guest at the Reagan Ranch Center for the 20th anniversary commemoration of Mr. Reagan’s speech at the Berlin Wall.

Ronald Reagan now belongs to history,” Mr. Robinson told The Washington Times. “We can take pride in him as an inspiration to us all, but we ought not to tie ourselves in knots searching for another like him.”

The 1987 speech is “a moment that sums up for me a great deal of what I so loved and admired about Ronald Reagan,” Mr. Robinson said during a telephone interview from Stanford University, where he is a Hoover Institution research fellow.

“There was quite a lot of contention” among top Reagan administration officials about whether the president should deliver the line asking Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” Mr. Robinson said.

“I wouldn’t have written it for anyone else, and it’s hard to imagine that any other political figure of that day would have insisted on overruling the advice of foreign policy professionals to deliver that speech,” he said. “He alone could have given that speech.”

The occasion of the speech reminded him of Mr. Reagan’s “sense of purpose, his sense of conviction,” Mr. Robinson said.

“Whenever I hear a clip of his delivering that famous line, I’m reminded of just how good he was,” he said. “He took every aspect of the presidency seriously: the convictions, the policy, but also the skills required to move people.”

Yet if Mr. Reagan “were with us today, he would be recognizing the role of ordinary people in Eastern Europe,” Mr. Robinson said. “He called on Gorbachev to tear down the wall, but it was ordinary Germans who finally did.”

The 20th anniversary of the speech was marked at the Young America’s Foundation Reagan Ranch Center, a $10 million facility in downtown Santa Barbara known as “the schoolhouse for Reaganism.” Mr. Robinson and syndicated radio talk show host Michael Medved participated in the event.

The anniversary was an opportunity “to recognize the magnitude of the American accomplishment in the Cold War,” Mr. Robinson said.

“It was one of the great conflicts in all human history,” he said. “It lasted more than four decades, it reached to virtually every corner of the globe.”

“And we won,” Mr. Robinson said. “The Cold War did not just end — we won.”

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on the 20th anniversary of the famous speech

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