Little Bits of History

June 12

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 12, 2017

1987: US President Ronald Reagan gives a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin. Between 1961 and 1989, a barrier wall was part of the Berlin landscape. Construction began on August 13, 1961 by the German Democratic Republic. The Berlin Wall separated West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and East Berlin. The wall grew with time until it stretched 96 miles and was 11.8 feet high at the concrete segments. Guard towers were included and looked over the “death strip” – an area patrolled to keep anyone from exiting from the Eastern Bloc into the free west. Before the Wall went up, 3.5 million East Germans escaped across the border between Eastern and Western Germany.

Reagan, President from 1981 to 1989, addressed the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary and Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and later President of the Soviet Union on this day. But this was not Reagan’s first request to bring down the wall. In June 1982 while visiting West Berlin, he first posed the question as to why the wall was even needed. In 1986, after the Wall had stood for a quarter of a century, a West German newspaper posed a question to the President and asked for a timeline for dismantling the Wall. Reagan answered, “I call upon those responsible to dismantle it [today]”.

On June 11, 1987, about 50,000 people had demonstrated against Reagan and his presence, once again, in Berlin. While he was there, large portions of the city were closed off to prevent more anti-Reagan rallies. But it wasn’t just Germans upset with the outspoken President. Within his own administration, there were several senior staff members who were against his bringing up the Wall issue again as it might worsen already tense East-West relations. It was thought Reagan might offend
Gorbachev after years of attempting to create a better relationship between both the leaders and the countries they led. Speechwriters were told to leave the now iconic phrase in the speech.

Reagan arrived in Berlin earlier in the day. He and Nancy Reagan were taken to the Reichstag where they could see the wall from the balcony. At 2 PM, while standing in front of two panes of bulletproof glass, Reagan challenged his Soviet opponent to tear down the wall. The speech also called for an end to the arms race between the two nations. While it received little press at the time and was considered to be “absurd” or “openly provocative, war-mongering speech”, the Wall did eventually fall. Little if any credit goes to Reagan or this speech, but rather it was a series of political changes which allowed for the dismantling of the wall as well as what it stood for.

We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, 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!

As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner, ‘This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality.’

Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom. – all from Ronald Reagan


Not So Old

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 6, 2013
Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan

February 6, 1987: Ronald Wilson Reagan celebrates his 76th birthday during his tenure as US President, making him the oldest President in US history. Reagan was first elected to the Presidency in 1980 after serving as Governor of California from 1967-1975 and one unsuccessful run at the highest political seat in the nation. He was elected again to that seat in 1984 taking a stunning 525 of the possible 538 electoral college votes, losing only Minnesota and Washington, DC.

During his first term as President, on March 30, 1981, John Hinckley, Jr. shot the President in the chest. The bullet lodged in his left lung, missing his heart by less than an inch. James Brady, Thomas Delahanty, and Timothy McCarthy were also shot in the attack. As the President was rolled into surgery he quipped, “I hope you’re all Republicans!” Dr. Joseph Giordano replied, “Today, Mr. President, we’re all Republicans.” Reagan was released from the hospital on April 11 and continued in his role as President.

During his second campaign, his age became a factor. The opposition pointed out that an aging President could be detrimental. Drawing on his experience as an entertainer, he joked, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” There are age restrictions for government positions, but only on the lower end. One must be 35 years of age to be President of the US, 30 years of age to be a Senator, and 25 to be a Representative. Some states have age restrictions, too. South Dakota’s Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and State Senators and Representatives must be 21, but the Public Utilities Commissioner must be 25.

Ronald Reagan was the oldest elected President. Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest President at age 42. He assumed the seat when President William McKinley was assassinated. He was not elected until he was 46, like both Ulysses S. Grant and Bill Clinton. John F. Kennedy was the youngest elected President at age 43. While Reagan was older as President, it should be noted that Queen Elizabeth II still reigns at age 81.

“One way to make sure crime doesn’t pay would be to let the government run it.”

“Government always finds a need for whatever money it gets.”

“To sit back hoping that someday, some way, someone will make things right is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last – but eat you he will.”

“We don’t have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven’t taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much.” – all from Ronald Wilson Reagan

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: The oldest currently serving state leader is Cuthbert Sebastian who is 91 years old and represents Queen Elizabeth at Saint Kitts and Nevis. Shimon Peres is President of Israel and is 89. Right behind him is Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe and 88 years old. There are other rules in their 80s including Queen Elizabeth who is now 86. She has been Queen of England since 1952. Abdul Halim of Kedah is 85 and has been ruling in Malaysia since 2011. Hastings Branda was President of Malawi at the age of 96 when he lost his election bid. Two others were in their 90s when they were leaders of their nations and died while in office. President Reagan died on June 5, 2004 at the age of 93.

Also on this day: Tobacco Road – In 1987, the US bans smoking in all federal buildings, except Congress.
QEII – In 1952, British King George VI died.
Voice Artist – In 1914, Thurl Ravenscroft was born.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 5, 2011

PATCO logo

August 5, 1981: President Ronald Reagan fires 11,345 striking air traffic controllers. The Professional air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) represented the air traffic controllers in the US from 1968 until 1982. It was founded with the assistance of F. Lee Bailey, a renowned lawyer. The fledgling union first flexed its muscles on July 3 when they announced “Operation Air Safety.” This new policy had all members strictly adhering to some impractical separation standards for aircraft. This resulted in a huge air traffic slow down. It was just the first of many such slowdowns that PATCO would employ.

In 1969 the US Civil Service Commission ruled that PATCO was not a professional association but was, in fact, a trade union. In 1970, the union called for a “sickout” to protest FAA actions they felt were unfair. About 2000 controllers called in sick since they weren’t permitted to strike due to a federal law on the books. Supervisors attempted to fill in, but there was still a slow down and after a few days, both sides came to the bargaining table. Automated systems were installed to reduce the workload after this.

Ironically, during the 1980 presidential election, PATCO, the teamsters, and Air Line Pilots Association all refused to back Jimmy Carter’s  re-election bid and threw their support toward Reagan. On August 3, 1981, the union declared a strike. They were seeking better working conditions and a 32-hour work week. They also did not want to be encumbered with the civil service clauses which hampered them. However, this strike was illegal due to the 5 U.S.C. Supp. III 1956 law where on page 118 it banned strikes by government unions.

Reagan said the strike was imperiling the nation and ordered the controllers back to work under the terms of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. Out of almost 13,000 controllers, only 1,300 returned to work. Reagan gave the rest of them 48 hours to return. When they did not, he fired them on this day. They were also banned from all future federal service for life (Bill Clinton repealed that in 1993). The system was covered by a patchwork and temporary method until new controllers could be trained. PATCO was decertified in October and air traffic controllers are now represented by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

“Perhaps the most important, and then highly controversial, domestic initiative was the firing of the air traffic controllers in August 1981. The President invoked the law that striking government employees forfeit their jobs, an action that unsettled those who cynically believed no President would ever uphold that law. President Reagan prevailed, as you know, but far more importantly his action gave weight to the legal right of private employers, previously not fully exercised, to use their own discretion to both hire and discharge workers.” – Alan Greenspan

“A people free to choose will always choose peace.” – Ronald Reagan

“Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.” – Ronald Reagan

“Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.” – Ronald Reagan

Also on this day:
Candle in the Wind – In 1962 Norma Jean dies, mysteriously.
Road Trip – In 1888, Bertha Benz went for a drive.