‘Tear Down this Wall!’ Speechwriter Coming to Benedictine

Benedictine College today announced that the speechwriter who penned Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall!” speech, Peter Robinson, will be this year’s Convocation Speaker Aug. 29 at 11:00 a.m. in the Ralph Nolan Gymnasium.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of that speech, delivered at the Brandenburg Gate of the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987.

Peter M. Robinson is now an author and research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he writes about business and politics, edits Hoover’s quarterly journal, the Hoover Digest, and hosts Hoover’s video series program, “Uncommon Knowledge.”

Benedictine College’s convocation is the academic kickoff of the school year. The annual event follows the Opening School Mass and features a speaker of interdisciplinary interest to inspire students and faculty to reach for greatness in their life of scholarship.

Robinson is also the author of three books including How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life and the best-selling business book Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA.

Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis invited Robinson to speak. “It is exciting to have Peter Robinson here. He will be a great role model for our students. I have long admired his work — if you read his books you can tell he has a Benedictine heart. It will be great to hear him mark the 30th anniversary of Reagan’s important speech.”

“General Secretary Gorbachev,” Reagan said in the speech (watch it here), “if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Robinson has told the story of how the line “tear down this wall!” was removed and reinserted into that speech.

Robinson explains that after days of internal White House opposition, “In the limousine on the way to the Berlin Wall, the President told [a senior staffer] he was determined to deliver the controversial line. Reagan smiled. ‘The boys at State are going to kill me,’ he said, ‘but it’s the right thing to do.’”

The words had a dramatic effect, and are credited, along with actions by President Reagan and the leadership of St. John Paul II, with leading to the demise of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet stranglehold on Eastern Europe. Read more about the speech and Robinson in Politco and The Washington Post. Another key moment in the destruction of the Soviet Bloc happened on the same day as Ronald Reagan’s speech at the Berlin Wall: Pope John Paul II visited Poland, and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa received Holy Communion from the Pope (photo here).

Robinson was a 30-year old special assistant and speechwriter in Reagan’s White House from 1983-1988 when he wrote the speech. He had graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1979, where he majored in English. He went on to study politics, philosophy, and economics at Oxford University, from which he graduated in 1982.

Robinson would spend six years in the White House, continuing to serve from 1982 to 1983 as chief speechwriter to Vice President George Bush. After the White House, Robinson attended Stanford’s MBA program, graduating in 1990.

After working in New York for Fox Television, and then in Washington, D.C., as the director of the Public Affairs, Policy Evaluation and Research at the Securities and Exchange Commission,  Robinson joined the Hoover Institution in 1993.

Peter Robinson photo courtesy the Hoover Institution.

Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.