Peter M. Robinson, the speechwriter whose words were used by President Ronald Reagan to order Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall," will help celebrate and commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Thursday.
The ceremony — which is free and open to the public — will begin at 4:15 p.m. with a wreath-laying ceremony and tolling of the bells from the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury on Westminster's campus. The solemn outdoor portion of the ceremony will be followed by a speech by Robinson in the historic Church, which is part of America's National Churchill Museum.
The wreath-laying ceremony will take place in front of artist Edwina Sandys' Breakthrough sculpture next to the museum to commemorate those who died near the Berlin Wall trying to flee from East Berlin to freedom in West Berlin between 1961 and 1989. During that time, nearly 80 people were shot by East German guards as they tried to climb over the wall, while at least 125 others died in falls and various accidents or died by suicide after failing to escape from East Berlin.
The ceremony will be followed by the tolling of the church's bells, which will ring 30 times to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the opening of the wall Nov. 9, 1989.
Robinson's speech will begin at 4:30 p.m. inside the church.
Of the 300 speeches Robinson wrote during his tenure at the White House, he is most known for Reagan's "Tear Down This Wall" address, which he delivered before a large crowd Friday, June 12, 1987, in front of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin.
Robinson served the White House as special assistant and speechwriter to Reagan from 1983-88. He previously worked as chief speechwriter to former Vice President George H.W. Bush from 1982-83. His speech was given by Reagan about two years before the Berlin Wall was finally ordered to be opened by the Soviet government.
He will discuss the origins of his speech, its contributions for bringing an end to the Cold War and the ultimate opening of the Berlin Wall, which enabled Berliners for the first time in nearly 30 years to cross freely between Communist East Berlin and Democratic West Berlin.
The Berlin Wall was a stark symbol of the Cold War, a time marked by great geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc countries against the United States and its Western allies. The Cold War began in 1947 after World War II and lasted until 1991.
Following Robinson's speech, all are invited to watch a video of Reagan's Nov. 9, 1990, address, which he delivered when he visited Westminster College and dedicated Sandys' Breakthrough sculpture. The dedication coincided with the first anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Reagan's speech will be projected onto the Breakthrough sculpture.
Breakthrough is comprised of a 32-foot-long section of the original Berlin Wall obtained by Sandys, granddaughter of former British Prime Minister Winston S. and Clementine Churchill.
Sandys was inspired to create the sculpture on the Westminster campus to commemorate her grandfather's prophetic "Iron Curtain" speech at Westminster on March 5, 1946. In his speech, Churchill warned of the Soviet's Communist expansion, which led to the Cold War.
Today, Robinson is the Murdoch Distinguished Policy Fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he writes about business and politics, edits the quarterly Hoover Digest and hosts the video series program, Uncommon Knowledge.
A published author, Robinson wrote "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life," "It's My Party: A Republican's Messy Love Affair with the GOP" and "Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA." He also has written for the New York Times, Red Herring, Forbes ASAP, the Wall Street Journal and the National Review Online, among others.
Robinson earned an MBA in 1990 from Stanford University in Stanford, California. He previously earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy, politics and economics in 1982 from Oxford University in Oxford, England. Robinson also received a bachelor's degree in English from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, in 1979.
Other events on tap
On Friday, Westminster will host two panel discussions related to the Cold War. Each will be held in the Hermann Lounge, located upstairs in the Hermann Activity Center, and members of the public are welcome to attend.
The first, a panel of Cold War veterans, is 10-11:30 a.m. It features Westminster president Fletcher Lamkin, Brock Ayers, Steven Hardin and Jan Herring. It will be followed at 1-2:30 p.m. by "The Cold War and American Life," a panel featuring Angela Frye Keaton, Ann Collins and Eric Kaspar.