Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tear Down The Wall

Brandenburg Gate
Originally uploaded by Wolfgang Staudt

"The boys in the State Department are going to kill me, but it's the right thing to do." ~ Ronald Reagan

On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan spoke these words to his deputy chief of staff while on their way to a speech Reagan was about to give at the Berlin Wall. He had spent the past three weeks being told he needed to tone down his speech. The State Department and the National Security Council didn't like the initial draft. It was too naive. It was clumsy. It would raise false hopes. It was needlessly provocative. They even submitted their own drafts on the very day he was to give his the speech, omitting one phrase in particular.

Much of their concern was centered around the phrase, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

There are times in our lives (personally or professionally) when we are faced with some tough choices. We can know in our heart what the right thing to do (or say) is, but there is so much pressure to do otherwise we back off. We give in. We give up. We think everyone else is right. We compromise our beliefs. We permit ourselves to believe everyone else that we are being naive. Maybe we are being clumsy. Maybe we would be raising false hopes. Is it really our place to say, or do what we know is the right thing to do?

There have been moments in my life when I have been faced with some very tough choices. Choices that I knew would be life altering, even unpopular. I knew that if I chose to do "the right thing", I'd find many people wanting "to kill me", yet I ignored all of the clamouring for inaction and made the right decision. I am sure you have had these moments as well.

Then there have been moments when I was faced with some very tough choices, but for some reason I couldn't do the right thing. There was a right thing to say, yet I remained silent. There was a right thing to do, yet I remained motionless. I am sure you can relate to these moments as well.

When faced with a difficult moment and we say or do the right thing we are taking a stand for something we believe in. You and I may not have the ability to take a stand that leads to change in the world (as Reagan or other world leaders), but we do have the ability to take a stand and change our life, business, or the lives of our friends and family. Then again, if our belief spreads, maybe we could just change the world.

In September 1989, ordinary citizens took to the streets in Leipzig, East Germany in protest. The police and guards of the wall simply stood by. It wasn't long before the protesting spread and eventually the Berlin Wall began to be torn down. Families were reunited after decades of separation and old friends were able to come together again. Suddenly those words that caused such debate in the weeks before Reagan's speech didn't seem so naive or clumsy. They seemed like the right thing to do.

So what's my point? Do the right thing. Say the right thing. Tear down the wall. You will never regret it.


Chris said...

Well, you might temporarily regret saying some things, but just until you find another job! Maybe that makes it even MORE right....

Andrew Weaver said...

I think that's the decision one has to make sometimes. So you choose to say the right thing and do the right thing, yet people may not like it. But in the long run, you will see the benifits. Even if everyone else never does.