This is one anniversary we can't let slip by us. Twenty years ago today, Ronald Reagan gave his "tear down this wall speech." Conservatives like to remember it as the turning point in the Cold War, while liberals even question how much credit Reagan should be given for the end of the Cold War. This account in the New York Times seems to get it about right, I think:
Yet the speech reflected an important shift in Mr. Reagan's thinking, one that put him at odds with the Washington establishment: it acknowledged that Mr. Gorbachev represented something significant and fundamentally different in Moscow; that he was not merely a new face for the same old Soviet policies.
So while the speech reasserted the anti-communism on which Mr. Reagan had based his entire political career, it also gave recognition to the idea that the Soviet system might be changing. “We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness,” Mr. Reagan said. “Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state?”
While the speech did not attempt to answer that question, it did go on to establish a new test for evaluating Mr. Gorbachev's policies:
To experience the speech again (watch it here on YouTube)is to remember that events can be shifted dramatically by just the right thing being said at just the right time. It's also a painful reminder that the current president lacks that ability.