5 The US Presidents at the Wall

Michael B., Matthew M. and Michael N.

Introduction

The Berlin Wall was built by the Soviets in the East to stop people  from fleeing from the communist side of Germany. However, eventually US presidents began to make make many speaches and arguments against the Berlin Wall. The US Presidents at the wall were John Kenedy and Ronald Reagan in 1963 and 1987. Both speeches were important but Kenedy’s speech was of great importance because it signified American and worldwide recognition of the horror of the Berlin Wall. Also Reagan should not be forgoten because he saught to negotiate with the Soviet and improve their relations with each other. Reagan also made a speech in 1987 fighting to free the East Berliners. Reagan used the challenge to the Soviets, ‘tear down this wall’.

 

John F. Kennedy

John Kennedy was born in 1917 and the son of a wealthy businessman. He went to Harvard University studying politics. He also did some military service in the US Navy, after initially being rejected from the army because of a back problem. In the navy he even recieved a Navy and Marine Corps award for bravery. He initially became a senator but at the time he was not very influential and at one point became badly ill making it a bit of a setback for him in his carreer. However he soon became United States Presidents.

At the age of 43 Kennedy became President and sought for peace in the country. Even in his Presidential reign he was able to prevent a near nuclear war in Cuba. The Soviet Union were planning to put missiles in Cuba and Kennedy discovered this and went to immediate action. Kennedy quarantined Cuba and the Soviets backed down.

John Kennedy was however assasinated in 1963, being shot by a assasin. He died at a young age of 46. The assasin was arrested for the murder of John Kennedy and a police officer. He denied the charges but was murdered two days later. Investigators conclude that he was a lone assasin. Kennedy died the youngest US president.

 

Reagan

Early life

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in a small apartment in Tampico, Illinois. His father, Jack, was a salesman and a storyteller.  His grandfather was an Irish Catholic immigrant from Tipperary, while his mother, Nelle Wilson, had English heritage. Reagan’s older brother Neil, who was born in 1908, later became who became an advertising executive. Reagan’s family moved around Illinois a bit, living in Monmouth, Galesburg and Chicago, but in 1919  they moved back to Tampico, where they stayed.  Reagan was baptised in 1922. In late 1920 the store the Reagans owned shut down and they had to move to Dixon. Reagan attended Dixon High School, where he developed interests in acting, sports, and storytelling. Reagan did not believe in racism and when he was living in Dixon, the local inn did not allow black people to stay there so Reagan brought them back to his house to stay the night.

Reagan’s first job was as a lifeguard at the Rock River in Lowell Park, near Dixon, in 1927. Reagan performed 77 rescues as a lifeguard, he would put a mark on a log for every rescue he made. Reagan then attended Eureka College.  Here he joined the Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, became a cheerleader, and majored in economics and sociology. He became known as a jack of all trades, excelling in campus politics, sports and theater. He was a member of the football team, captain of the swim team and was elected student body president. As student president, Reagan led a student revolt against the college president after he tried to cut back the faculty.

Latter life and death

Reagan died of pneumonia, which he got whilst suffering from Alzheimer’s disease ,at his home in Bel Air, California on the afternoon of June 5, 2004. A short time after his death, Nancy Reagan released a statement saying: “My family and I would like the world to know that President Ronald Reagan has died after 10 years of Alzheimer’s disease at 93 years of age. We appreciate everyone’s prayers.” Reagan’s body was taken to the Kingsley and Gates Funeral Home in Santa Monica, California later in the day, where well-wishers paid tribute by laying flowers and American flags in the grass. On June 7, his body was removed and taken to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. On June 9, Reagan’s body was flown to Washington, D.C. where he became the tenth United States president to lie in state.  This where he remains.

 

J.F.K’s speech at the Wall

On 26th June 1963 John F Kennedy gave a speech in West Germany. There were approximately 120,000 people gathered around the city hall waiting. When Kennedy stepped up there was several minutes of clapping. As this was happening the citizens of East Germany were crowding on the other side of the wall trying to peer over the wall, however there were many soldiers that stopped them from climbing over.

During Kennedy’s speech there were huge cheers from the crowd. He told the people, West Berlin was a symbol of freedom.

“All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ ”

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

This is one of his most famous speeches. ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ meant that Kennedy was from Berlin and that he would always be with them.

 

Reagan’s speech at the Wall

Significance of this speach

By the early 1980s, many people in America believed that the USSR were going to take over the whole of Germany.  They believed that the Russians had made weapons superior to their own and were going to destroy them.   Before this time the Americans had always had stronger weapons but they now believed that the Soviets’ technology was catching up.  The USSR was spending a lot of money on military services and was running low on agricultural services.  Saudi Arabia increased oil production and lowered the oil prices at this time and this was their main importing material.

Reagan recognised the change in the direction of the Soviet leadership with Mikhail Gorbachev.  He tried to persuade the Soviet leader to change back to how he was before. Reagan’s personal mission was to achieve “a world free of nuclear weapons”, which he thought were “totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization”. He was able to start discussions on nuclear disarmament with General Secretary Gorbachev and held four conferences with Gorbachev between 1985 and 1988,  the first in Geneva, Switzerland, the second in Reykjavík, Iceland, the third in Washington, D.C., and the fourth in Moscow. Reagan believed that if he could persuade the Soviets to allow for more democracy and free speech, this would lead to reform and the end of communism.

Speaking at the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987, Reagan challenged Gorbachev to go further, saying:

 

“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Gorbachev and Reagan sign the INF Treaty at the White House in 1987.

Questions

When did John F Kennedy give his speech at Berlin?

When was Ronald Reagan born?

How important was the Berlin Wall to the Presidents?

 

 

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