By Megan Delehanty and Thomas McAlister
On Oct. 3, New College revisited one of the memorable moments of the Cold War: President Ronald Reagan’s June 1987 speech in West Berlin, famous for the line, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
New College student Noah Opalsky recited the now-famous speech in front of a small recreation of the Berlin Wall, part of a series of events commemorating the 30th anniversary of the wall’s dismantling. Dr. Lauren Hansen, visiting assistant professor of German, organized the series.
Previously, fourth-year student Jay Stewart recited President John F. Kennedy’s June 1963 “I am a Berliner” speech. Both students trained with New College’s Theater, Dance and Performance Studies department to prepare for their performances.
Other events include weekly spray painting sessions, with each session featuring a different theme. The most recent theme — “Migration is natural. Migration is a human and animal right” — was provided by the Environmental Ethics class.
Before Opalsky’s performance, Dr. Brendan Goff, assistant professor of history at New College, spoke on the historical and cultural significance of Reagan’s speech.
“It became an iconic moment for defining what turned out to be the final years of the Cold War,” Goff said in an interview. “No one would’ve guessed on the day of that speech, in June 1987, that the events of October and November 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall were just around the corner. It was practically unimaginable at that time. And yet from 1989 through 1992, the wall came down and then the Soviet Union itself came down. So, in retrospect, Reagan’s speech took on a certain aura and became an iconic moment only after the wall came down.”
The speech also became a preferred narrative of the Reagan years, Goff said, helping his administration gloss over the Iran-Contra scandal and other controversies, and giving the speech more significance in U.S. history.
The actual Berlin Wall came down on Nov. 9, 1989, and on Nov. 8, New College will stage own version, where students will help demolish the replica.
Before that, other planned events include another speech reenactment, spray painting sessions at noon on Wednesdays, and an outdoor music performance at the wall.
— Megan Delehanty and Thomas McAlister are interns in the Office of Communications and Marketing at New College of Florida.