Twenty years ago this month Chinese citizens were mowed down, run over by tanks, for the crime of peacefully assembling in public and speaking out for freedom in their country.
This same incredible year – 1989 - saw the collapse of a number of Communist governments around the world.
I was working with the British Army in Hong Kong at the time: I and my counterparts all agreed it was nothing short of miraculous. We were soldiers of the Cold War era; none of us ever expected to see the Berlin Wall come down without a shot being fired.
But come down it did – and the weapons that brought it down were not bombs or bullets but rather words and ideas –– spoken by brave men and women across a generation.
John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, given June 26, 1963 in the Rudolph Wilde Platz near the Berlin Wall:
“There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.”
And of course, Ronald Reagan’s famous words, given in Berlin, June12, 1987:
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Fast forward to the present. Untold thousands of Iranians seeking freedom for their country are being brutally repressed by a totalitarian regime as evil and insidious as any of the Iron Curtain countries. They are being struck down in the streets with truncheons and tear gas, water cannons and even live ammunition.
Where are the brave words and ideas to embolden this latest generation of freedom fighters?
You are the President of the United States, Mr. Obama. The people of Iran look to you for inspiration, to validate their cause. Now is the golden opportunity to add some real chutzpah to that “Hope and Change” slogan. Say something.