Rhetorical Analysis, Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate Tear Down this Wall Speech
Freedom by Speech
June 12, 1987, upon a pulpit aimed at the West German crowd, with speakers aimed over the booby-trapped explosives and barbed-wire fence to the East German side, President Reagan began to deliver a Gotterdammerung of a speech. Standing in the midst of alternating American and German flags, and a podium with a single microphone, adorned the entire length with German stripes, President Reagan’s remarks at the Brandenburg Gate were a triumphant attempt to elicit freedom and abolish the evils of the Soviet regime to all people of the world. No doubt to the effectiveness of this persuasion, for within two years the barrier which separated freedom and totalitarianism was destroyed not only with sledge hammers and bull dozers, but with careful logic, diction, and strategically applied tone.
The President’s purpose was clear. It was his duty as an American president to visit the oppressed in Germany, just as past Presidents did in order to advertise and promote the message and means of freedom. Solidifying his stance and obviating his purpose was captured in the ears of the Germans almost immediately after taking all attentive ears. “Twenty-four years ago, President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin . . . since then, two other presidents have come, each in his turn, to Berlin.” [emphasis added] A weighty duty is to be performed, and will be performed by the last period of the upcoming speech. All attention is now fixated on the words. Anticipation is now mounting, as effective use of logic to sell his purpose was purchased.
Thriving in a world of free enterprise and democracy, were the pockets of repression and dictatorship forcing subordinates to conform to near-tyrannical will. Knowing this was ineffective through tried-and-true democratic parameters, a rational based on historical accuracy was presented: “Countries that are allowed to live free are better off.” Had the president stopped there, doubt may still arise in the nonpersuaded. However, he recounts the efficacy of the Marshall Plan. George Marshall, the Secretary of State in 1947, was the voice of hope and rebuilding of war-torn countries in the midst of crumbling concrete and rebar. With the support and aid of the Marshall Plan, “Japan rose from ruin to become an economic giant. Italy, France, Belgium—virtually every nation in Western Europe saw political and economic rebirth . . .” To any person listening to this would empower their dynamics of common sense and logic to conclude that economic independency is a desirable trait to possess. Especially to those that are in a depressive wealth crisis. President Reagan didn’t force, but rather lead the audience to see outside their countries. He pointed out to them fact. Communist countries are prone to failure. Not only do they fail, they fail worse than at any other time in documented history. It makes even the strongest proponents of Soviet power think. Nothing makes more sense then the truth.
Making sense of the truth is more effectively done when the words used tug at emotions and stir the mind. The ‘wall’ is a good metaphor, presented with careful diction, used by the President in describing oppression. High and wide, dangerous and impenetrable, the wall is seen as a permanent mockery of hope. Even the sun isn’t immune. The days are shorter; the sun must rise later, and set earlier to compensate for the false horizon lying every day it stands. Though this barrier of freedom stands, President Reagan declares: “As long as the gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind. Yet I do not come here to lament. For I find in Berlin a message of hope, even in the shadow of this wall, a message of triumph.” Amidst the “Soviet aggression” the message of freedom is a missionary that is “transforming the globe.” This wall will come down and freedom will be allowed to bourgeon into every Berliner no matter what pressures they may face. Placing gasoline on a now lit flame the President declares: “. . . there is no better place to start than Berlin, in the meeting place of the East and West, to make a start.” The President was successful delegating portions of his power and motives to the now driven audience.
President Reagan was the most powerful man on the planet. He was a man that could speak and declare this truth, and he was a man that could encompass genuine humanness: Intimidating and stern to the enemy; relatable, and redeeming to his friends.
Although President Reagan is an American, he has the ability to relate to the German people almost by becoming one. His reasons for coming to Germany are not only to perform his job, but for other, more selfish and human reasons. The “feeling of history”, the “beauty of the Grunewald and the Tiergarten” are the other reasons for visiting Germany. Who is to doubt the authenticity of this statement? President Reagan almost wants to be known as just a lowly tourist or citizen. Presidents are chief diplomats. They travel throughout the world to promote their own countries ideals and policies. They aren’t tourists, but busy personnel with duty to fulfill. When they take on such common practices, Reagan’s audience saw a normal human being: They saw themselves and friends. The manner in which he speaks, as friends do, gives the German people a sense of fraternity. They allow him the ticket and password through such familiar inflected tone.
As an established comrade, he takes the helm. As their leader he changes tone toward the enemy. Protective to ears of friends, hostile to the soul of the enemy, President Reagan makes his boldest proclamation aimed toward the East. “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!” No speculation is needed for the audience. Spoken sternly, forcefully, dutifully, challengingly, Mr. Gorbachev can sense a standoff he cannot win. The determination of the West is pulling the trigger aimed at Mr. Gorbachev’s brow. He has no choice but to buckle and hope for mercy.
President Reagan’s speech was greatly successful. Establishing his purpose and duty, becoming the friend to the oppressed and free, wresting the emotions with sensible logic, powerful diction, a diversified lexicon with tactical inflected tone, intimidating the enemy to cower to the deepest corner of the wall, President Reagan could have even persuaded the apathetic and ignorant. There is little to be argued about President Reagan’s success in his speech to the world from Brandenburg gate. At 2:20pm, July 12, 1987, Reagan initiated a movement that was “transforming the globe.” Walls buckled like a scared bully encircled by outraged parents. Cheers erupted, celebrations were abundant, the tears of bottled-up oppression were a flash flood on a poorly designed levee.