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Tear Down This Wall

A City, a President, and the Speech that Ended the

On June 12, 1987, Ronald Reagan addressed a crowd of 20,000 people in West Berlin in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. The words he delivered that afternoon would become among the most famous in presidential history. "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate," Reagan said. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall!"

In this riveting and fast-paced book, Romesh Ratnesar provides an account of how Reagan arrived at his defining moment and what followed from it. The book is based on interviews with numerous former Reagan administration officials and American and German eyewitnesses to the speech, as well as recently declassified State Department documents and East German records of the president's trip. Ratnesar provides new details about the origins of Reagan's speech and the debate within the administration about how to issue the fateful challenge to Gorbachev. Tear Down This Wall re-creates the charged atmosphere surrounding Reagan's visit to Berlin and explores the speech's role in bringing about the fall of the Berlin Wall less than two years later.

At the heart of the story is the relationship between two giants of the late twentieth century: Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Departing from the view that Reagan "won" the Cold War, Ratnesar demonstrates that both Reagan and Gorbachev played indispensable roles in bringing about the end of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry. It was the trust that Reagan and Gorbachev built in each other that allowed them finally to overcome the suspicions that had held their predecessors back. Calling on Gorbachev to tear down the Wall, in Reagan's mind, might actually encourage him to do it. Reagan's speech in Berlin was more than a good sound bite. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we can now see the speech as the event that marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

Elegant and dramatic, Tear Down This Wall is the definitive account of one of the most memorable speeches in recent history and a reminder of the power of a president's words to change the world.

“Timely and insightful. . . Ratnesar’s book deftly explores the history of those famous words and highlights Ronald Reagan’s clarity of vision and commitment to the American ideal.” –Condoleezza Rice

“Romesh Ratnesar has produced a riveting account of one of the greatest speeches in modern times, which would have been enough. But along the way he has also written a brilliant and incisive history of the end of the Reagan Presidency and the Cold War. Tear Down this Wall affirms the power of words.”

--David Grann, Author of The Lost City of Z

“Fast-moving and splendidly written. . . a remarkable re-creation of the last days of the Soviet empire, with East Germany as the culmination of the Marxist dialectic, and the wall the perfect symbol for that strange alternate universe.”

–John R. Coyne, Jr., Washington Times

“Romesh Ratnesar has told the story with narrative verve, brilliant political and personal insight, and a combination of concision and pithiness worthy of the Great Communicator himself.”

--Strobe Talbott, author of The Great Experiment: Ancient Empires, Modern States, and the Quest for a Global Nation