I have pretty vivid memories of the Berlin Wall falling; in large part because it was the last thing I ever expected to see in my lifetime. I spent a significant part of my college years as a bit of an activist, at first on the left, and later on the right. Like a lot of people my age I felt the fear, sometimes expressed, but more often than not, that the long cold conflict we had with the Soviet Union would burst into hot war, replete with world ending bombs. That was why Reagan’s demand to Gorbachev that he “tear down this wall!” was at the same time frightening and exhilarating – it framed freedom as a gift so precious that not even the threat of annihilation could deny it. Nonetheless, I never expected to see that yearning fulfilled in my lifetime.
Perhaps that was what made the recent 20th anniversary celebration a rather disappointing affair. Unlike the still vivid memories of my youth the recent remarks of our President made no mention of Reagan – no mention of Thatcher, or Pope John Paul, or Lech Walesa. No mention of the Soviets or communism. He does however oddly make mention of himself as an icon of freedom:
“Few would have foreseen … that a united Germany would be led by a woman from Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent. But human destiny is what human beings make of it,”
As President of the United States, Obama is free to set his schedule and agenda as he sees fit. If he wants he wants to personally appear to lobby to have the Olympics in Chicago and then skip out on the celebration of the one of the greatest advances of freedom in the 20th century, that is his prerogative; however, his office doesn’t give him the liberty to re-write history, and his failure to make note of the true champions of freedom constitutes an abrogation of duty.