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Tara Walker Standing at the Brandenburg Gate: This Wall Will Fall Walls and fences are erected to keep unwanted perpetrators from getting in. However, the Berlin Wall “[was] an awkward thing, outlandish and unloved, a numbing fact of life, a fortification thrown up in panic to keep people in rather than out” (Gelb 3). During the 1960s and 70s the Iron Curtain was still lowered, and the Berlin Wall stood grim and foreboding. Many countries were under Communist rule and silently suffered oppression. In Margaret Thatcher’s eulogy for United States’ President Ronald Reagan, she declared his mission was “to mend America’s wounded spirit, to restore the strength of the free world, and to free the slaves of communism” (Thatcher). Reagan actively sought to bring freedom to all people of the world, particularly those in Eastern Europe. President Reagan’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate profoundly articulates that “the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace,” and is effectively done so through his knowledge of historical background, his use of the German discourse community, and his implementation of ethos, pathos and logos (Reagan). President Reagan makes numerous historical references to Germany’s political past. Following World War II, the victorious countries split Germany into sectors. France, Britain and the United States controlled the Western part of the country, as well as West Berlin, while the Soviets took power of Eastern Berlin and the remainder of Germany. At this time period, citizens of both East and West Berlin were allowed access to the other half of the capital, and many crossed back and forth daily. This freedom, despite the lowering of the Iron Curtain, offered hundreds of thousands of East Germans an opportunity to flee Communist rule. “So great was the flight that the continued existence of the Communist East German state was threatened” (Gelb 6). Consequently, a little after 1:00 a.m. on August 13, 1961, East German troops and armed police began installing a “physical barrier” of barbed wire and cement posts along the line that separated East Germany from the West. By morning, the crude framework stood erected and the Berlin Wall’s existence began.


Walker 2 Twenty-six years later, the President of the United States stood at the Brandenburg Gate and addressed the people of West and East Germany. To make his speech more effective, Reagan carefully uses language from the German discourse community. A discourse community is a group of people who speak the same language based on similar geographic, ethnic, familial, and religious backgrounds. President Reagan immediately establishes a connection with the people of Germany by using language and allusions relative to their community only. President Reagan speaks to the people in German three separate times. In the opening paragraphs of his speech Reagan references the German composer Paul Linke and says, “Wherever I go, whatever I do: ‘Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin” (Reagan). Not only does Reagan speak to them in German, but the phrase literally translated means, “I still have a suitcase in Berlin.” This expresses his partiality to the German country and people. The final time he says, “My friends, there were a few things the Soviets didn’t count on: Berliner Herz, Berliner Humor, ja, und Berliner Schnauze” (Berliner heart, Berliner humor, yes, and a Berliner Schnauze) (Reagan). Berliner Schnauze is a German idiom that expresses the way people in Berlin talk to one another (Reagan). This familiarity with the language shows his earnest desire to understand and communicate with them. Reagan also makes other cultural references to well-beloved places like the Kudamm (an exclusive shopping district in Berlin), Tiergarten (a beautiful park and district close to the Brandenburg Gate) and Grunewald (the second-largest forest in Berlin). Most importantly, President Reagan addresses German nationalism. He speaks of the growth and change following World War II that reclaimed the country’s respected status: the opera, theaters, universities, orchestras, parks, museums, “busy office blocks,” well built homes, and comfortable apartments. Along with his expansive knowledge of the German culture and people, Reagan also uses his credible political position as the American President to make his rhetoric more effective. Ethos is the persuasion technique based on credibility and trust. In Writing and Rhetoric it says, “The President of the United States has certain authority because of his position—he can put ideas into action—and the office he holds conveys a certain degree of credibility” (McInelly and Perry 56). Reagan clearly establishes credibility in his opening paragraph. Then later, he states his position as president by pledging America’s


Walker 3 efforts in overcoming the “burden” of a divided country, as well as “maintain[ing] the capacity to deter Soviet aggression on any level at which it might occur” (Reagan). He expands his position and broadens his credibility while discussing the Soviet missile production and nuclear warfare, Western alliances, and NATO conventions in Iceland and Geneva (Reagan). Reagan shows his knowledge of German and world history while giving both background and current information on the effectiveness of Communism in Germany, and in other parts of the world. He compares the Soviet policy with democracy evolving in the Philippines and Pacific, as well as countries in South and Central America. Each is experiencing miraculous economic growth and expansion. Unmistakably, President Reagan criticizes the Soviet Union for refusing to join “the community of freedom,” and uses America’s position as a world power to threaten the Communist country with a choice: It must make fundamental changes, or it will become obsolete (Reagan). Throughout the course of his speech, Reagan is continually providing information that solidifies his credibility and consequently, his believability. After using ethos to secure the audience’s attention, President Reagan follows with another effective persuasive technique called pathos. Pathos appeals to the emotional response of the individual or group, and compels them to feel a certain way. With warmth and America’s good will, he greets all who are listening to the speech. He then specifically addresses those listening on the other side of the wall. To those in East Germany he says, “Es gibt nur ein Berlin,” (There is only one Berlin.) (Reagan). The use of German, and the emotional content of what he says connects the German people imprisoned by the wall with those who live freely outside of it. Reagan evokes fear, anger, and sadness by using poignantly visual images to describe the wall that separates them: barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guard towers (Reagan). He then bonds Germans to their neighboring countrymen by reminding them that the Berlin Wall not only separates a country, but also brutally divides a continent. Quoting President Von Weizsacker he says, “[The Berlin Wall] is not the German question alone. . . but the question of freedom for all mankind” (Reagan). Using this quotation creates an emotional response in all peoples listening across the world. Reagan follows this with empowering and hope filled rhetoric. He invites Germans to


Walker 4 find the courage and will to remain optimistic despite the challenges that face them. He reminds them of the difficulties faced and overcome following WWII, and the importance of conquering oppression now. Following this admonition, President Reagan singles out Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. “If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity. . . if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev—Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” (Reagan). This emotionally charged call to the Communist leader is a prime example of pathos. The final use of pathos in his speech is of “love both profound and abiding,” and is also one of hope (Reagan). He commends the German people for their love of country more than self, and promises them that their hope and faith will be rewarded with freedom. “Freedom leads to prosperity. . . [and we must] understand the practical importance of liberty” (Reagan). Here, President Reagan uses logic to effectively support his speech. Logos deals with relevance, acceptability, sufficiency, and accountability (McInelly and Perry 72). In his address outside the Berlin Wall, President Reagan utilizes all of these criteria to support his argument. He provides relevant examples of the importance of freedom and liberty in the forms of economical advancement and progression. Freedom exists as an emotional need, but also as one of practicality. After political leaders lowered taxes, reduced tariffs, and expanded their free trade, West Germany’s standard of living doubled in ten years (Reagan). This logical criterion is irrefutable evidence of the effect of liberty, and is consequently, both understandable and acceptable. In his remarks at the Brandenburg Gate, President Ronald Reagan eloquently expressed that freedom and liberty are vital to a nation’s success and advancement. Germany was no exception to this standard and listened carefully as he spoke of the opportunities East and West would soon have when reunited again. President Reagan addressed the world without fear, and confidently demanded that the totalitarian communists tear down the barrier that divided a nation and world from enjoying unity and peace. His knowledge of history and the German culture, along with his use of ethos, pathos and logos created a speech that was both credible and empowering. A line of hope crudely spray-painted on the Berlin Wall read, “This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality” (Reagan). On November 9,1989, travel


Walker 5 restrictions between the East and West were finally lifted, and shortly after, the Berlin Wall was finally torn down. Germany could finally begin the reunification process of her country. President Reagan and the individual who penned words upon the wall both had incredible foresight; they knew that beliefs can become a reality. Perhaps humans the world over will let the walls that separate them from their brothers fall, allowing freedom and unity to bind them together.


Walker 6 Works Cited Gelb, Norman. The Berlin Wall Kennedy, Khrushchev, and a Showdown in the Heart of Europe. New York: Dorset Press, 1990. Print. McInelly, Brett C., and Dennis R. Perry. Writing and Rhetoric. Plymouth, MI: Hayden-McNeil, 2008. Print. Reagan, Ronald. "Remarks at the Brandenburg Gate.â&#x20AC;? ts. Michael E. Eidenmuller. AmericanRhetoric.com. 2008. Web. Thatcher, Margaret. "Margaret Thatcher Foundation." Eulogy for President Reagan. 11 Jun 2004. Margaret Thatcher Foundation, 16 Sep 2009. <http://www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/ displaydocument.asp?docid=110360>. Web.


Standing at the Brandenburg Gate