“Tear down this wall!”

June 12, 2012 | By TIMOTHY SANDEFUR

Twenty-five years ago today, President Ronald Reagan delivered his famous challenge at the Brandenburg Gate.

The fall of the Berlin Wall is one of the great moments in world history, one that I am grateful to have seen. As long as humanity cherishes freedom, it will treasure the memory of Reagan’s challenge, and celebrate the fall of this darkest symbol of communist tyranny.

The story is that Reagan’s staff resisted his efforts to include this challenge in his speech, and only his personal demand kept it there. That should be a lesson to all of the importance of insisting on the moral rightness of freedom and the moral wrongness of servitude. It may at times seem futile to repeat that idea yet again—to say that all people, everywhere, deserve liberty. Such words have been said time and time again, have often been ignored, or silenced, or shrugged at. The Wall itself remained in place for two more years after Reagan’s speech. But words are the life of ideas, and ideas make history, and the recognition that freedom is right and tyranny wrong—that is the spark that has so far illuminated whatever portion of humanity no longer lives in darkness. Nothing we do to spread that flame is wasted effort. Whatever else Reagan knew, he knew that the only thing that can squander freedom and betray its rightness is our failure to speak out in its defense.