Study Guide

Evil Empire Speech Compare and Contrast

By Ronald Reagan

  • "Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!"

    Oh yeah, you say, eyes wide and bright with newfound knowledge. That's where this comes from!

    We've all heard tons of references to Reagan's 1987 speech at the Berlin Wall in western Germany. The wall was an eyesore, no doubt—it stretched for almost a hundred miles around West Berlin, so it took up a lot of room. But it also symbolized the differences between East Germany and West Germany, and made it seem like they were insurmountable.

    In other words, no one was going to be holding hands around a campfire any time soon.

    Reagan was very aware of what the wall said to the rest of the world, and he believed communism would only end if the Berlin Wall came down. His speech in 1987 made that very clear: "There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace [...] Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

    Much like his Evil Empire speech, President Reagan emphasized the ideological differences between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and how the ideas were the real problem. He said that only true freedom would usher in world peace, and freedom could not exist with a big wall down the middle of one of the world's most historic cities.

    Reagan also emphasized the critical nature of the nuclear arms race, particularly how dangerous it was, and also how pointless. Peace couldn't exist between two countries if they continued to stockpile big bad weapons to use against each other, and as the largest symbol of communism in the world, the Berlin Wall needed to come down to prove Gorbachev was as dedicated to burying the hatchet as Reagan was.

  • The Communist Manifesto

    Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes wrong, like Hey-universe-what-did-I-ever-do-to-you bad? Then you get to work and your boss takes the last donut and you glare while contemplating mutiny?

    Good news for you, comrade—Karl Marx wrote a how-to guide just for you.

    When he wrote the Communist Manifesto, Marx was rather horrified by the working conditions regular people were dealing with in Russia, especially because those people weren't suddenly living better lives with lots of expensive things. Plus, the rich folks had control over the royals, so under the capitalist system, your boss could take as many donuts as he wanted and you could do nothing about it.

    The Manifesto suggested the working class revolt as a group, a community, because the rich really couldn't do anything about it. Then, after the Average Joes were in power, they could help the country transition into communism, where everyone was equal and no one group would make money by severely underpaying another group.

    In theory, the Manifesto was about everyone sharing the means of production. It wasn't intended to create an oppressive government, but the working class didn't really know what to do with the equality once they achieved it under Lenin in 1917. And, once ol' Vlad was in charge, he made lots of changes that created more problems.

    In his speech, Reagan said that Lenin, using Marx's work as inspiration, believed morality was "entirely subordinate" to his cause (114). If it doesn't contribute to communism changing the world, Lenin has no time for it—and morals usually have little to do with "world revolution" (112). The problem with that is communist leaders weren't held accountable for their actions, which led to the social inequalities and injustices that Reagan talked about fixing in his Evil Empire speech.