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Three Decades Later, TFAS Reflects on Lessons from the Berlin Wall


Rediet Degefa ’19 holds a piece of the fallen Berlin Wall in her hand – a gift of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s gala dinner.

Thirty years ago this month, world history was profoundly changed with the fall of one of Europe’s most physically and ideologically divisive barriers – the Berlin Wall. On Nov. 9, 1989 the fall of the Berlin Wall prefaced the downfall of the Soviet Union and, consequently, decelerated the spread of anti-democratic principles across Europe during the Cold War. During this polarizing time, the United States stood as a beacon of hope for the promise of freedom through its enduring example of a democratic society.

Capital Semester on Leadership + the American Presidency students had the opportunity to attend two events last week examining this milestone event and its subsequent impact on the world.

TFAS students Rediet Degefa ’19 and Bethany Weaver ’19 celebrate 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s gala dinner in D.C.

On Friday, Nov. 8, several TFAS students attended the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s gala dinner commemorating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Student Rediet Degefa ’19 reflected on the dinner: “Tonight, we celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism, marking the democratic start for Eastern Europeans. We remembered the millions of lives claimed by the murderous communist regimes. Cheers to fighting all communists, socialists and ‘democratic socialists.’ Remember kids, Never voluntarily exchange your liberty for security.”

Earlier in the week, students visited Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall for a forum hosted by the George and Barbara Bush Foundation, the Ronald Reagan Institute, the Atlantic Council and Georgetown University. The event included a discussion of the major moments in history that transpired during the fall of the Berlin Wall. TFAS student Bethany Weaver ’19 said that having a chance to hear eyewitness perspectives of such a monumental moment in world history was an unforgettable experience.

At this event, we were given the chance of a lifetime: to hear from professionals as they reflected on their personal experiences and opinions with the fall of the Berlin Wall. A truly life-changing moment was to see Mr. Tom Brokaw video in from Berlin and speak of that historic night just 30 years ago. I will never forget today.” – Bethany Weaver ’19

Dávid Kosztrihán ’19, a student from Hungary, said remembering this historic event was an extremely important reminder for young people to learn from our shared history, in order to work toward a better future.

TFAS students gather for a photo outside of Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall following a forum on the 30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall last week.

“To know the past means that you have better chance to understand the present and to shape your future,” he said. “Our world order is based on economic and cultural ties between and amongst countries of the world, and to maintain and develop this order it is essential.”

TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 also paid tribute to the significant historical event with an op-ed in The Hill titled “Learning the lessons of the fall of the Berlin Wall.” The piece reflects on the United States’ role in advancing the principles of liberty, contributing to the spread of democracy and, ultimately, eliminating oppressive governments around the world.

However, the United States must not forget its founding principles as today’s political climate grows increasingly polarized. Ream stressed the importance of a recommitment to the principles of freedom for which President Ronald Reagan once advocated:

“But Reagan knew that America’s greatest achievements have involved the tearing down of walls and the advancement of personal and economic freedoms,” Ream writes. “The United States would do well to reflect on the inspirational message that Reagan articulated thirty years ago, and recommit itself to a new birth of freedom here on our own shores.”

You can read the full piece in The Hill.


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