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This Wall Cannot Withstand Faith, Truth, Freedom

Posted By Chuck Donovan On November 9, 2009 @ 11:43 am In Culture | Comments Disabled

Sometimes the best-known lines of famous speeches are only indicators of the rest of their content. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” may be the best known excerpt from President Reagan’s speech in Berlin [1], but the whole is well worth a read. Several paragraphs near the end especially highlight the significance of faith, love, and virtue to free society, and the totalitarian world’s self-destructive antipathy for these. Like that most famous quotation, these prophetic lines show too that successful statesmen must be sober realists about men’s ideals:

In a word, I would submit that what keeps you in Berlin is love–love both profound and abiding.

Perhaps this gets to the root of the matter, to the most fundamental distinction of all between East and West. The totalitarian world produces backwardness because it does such violence to the spirit, thwarting the human impulse to create, to enjoy, to worship. The totalitarian world finds even symbols of love and of worship an affront.

Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexander Platz. Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower’s one major flaw, treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet even today when the Sun strikes that sphere–that sphere that towers over all Berlin–the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed.

As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner, “This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality.” Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.

Co-authored by Jennifer Marshall.


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[1] President Reagan’s speech in Berlin: http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1987/061287d.htm

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