The New Economy: Entrepreneurship, Part Four

CLICK HERE FOR PART ONE

CLICK HERE FOR PART TWO

CLICK HERE FOR PART THREE

So let’s move on to question #2: In this new economy, is it better to become an entrepreneur, or is it really safer to work for someone else?

median-household-incomeThe average household income in the United States is approximately $50,000 a year. If you wanted to be part of the top 25% of income earners, you would need to earn at least $90,000.

To reach the top 10% would be a household income of $140,000, the top 5% $190,000, and to be in the top 1% you would need a combined household income of at least $380,000 a year.

So here’s the question–if you wanted to move up to the top 25% or 10% or even the top 5% of income earners (and who wouldn’t want to?), can you see yourself moving up to these levels with your current means of income?

Most of us have been taught to not even dream that high, but why? In today’s new economy, it is more and more feasible to be a top income earner if you are on the right path. What do you think would give you the best chance to move up to these top levels of income? In my opinion and in the opinion of many experts, the answer is to become an entrepreneur.

EntrepreneurThe concept of entrepreneurship has been around for millennia. The great explorers, the crusaders, the pilgrims, and the American west pioneers. The founding of this country was very entrepreneurial. Breaking away from Great Britain to be able to live as we choose, work as we choose, worship as we choose. It was the essence of being an entrepreneur.

Here is what a few entrepreneurs have to say about this life path:

Paul Zane Pilzer – “Why in America where anyone could have anything, would people want to give up their freedom and become effectively a modern day slave, show up every morning at 7:30am leave at 5:30pm, sit down, shut up and do what your told.”

Susan Sly – “Think about the great entrepreneurs, they are visionaries, they have heart. They are willing to do today what others won’t, so they can do tomorrow what others can’t.”

Kim Kiyosaki – “In the world of entrepreneurship, there are no limits. You can make as much as you want depending on how much you want to work and how smart you are and how great a team you put together.”

But there are reasons people shy away from entrepreneurship, for one, it’s not easy. When people decide to become entrepreneurs and work for themselves, they have to make lots of decisions, but they are riskier than you might think.

Kevin Harrington best known as an investor on “Shark Tank” shared this, “Any kind of a retail business with build outs, is extremely expensive. Even a small store such as the popular yogurt shops today can run $300,000 or $400,000 to setup.”

imagesThe typical business start-up story is the same, small or large, new or experienced, you are taking a risk and can win big or lose it all, and most entrepreneurs lose it all two or three times before they make it.

Richard Branson is a great example of this. As a very wealthy English Business owner and investor, he has lost at least 15 businesses over the years. 80% of all new U.S. businesses crash and burn within their first 5 years, many in the first 18 months.

Meanwhile, 72% of Americans would love to be their own boss, according to a current Gallup poll, but they don’t know how to get there. There are actually only four options for the average new Entrepreneur:

  1. You can buy an existing business – The first question to ask is why are the owners selling? What’s wrong with it? Commonly it’s because they are tired, it is hard, or maybe they are not making the money they had hoped for.
  1. You could buy a franchise. Here there is less risk and it is a proven system, but it is very expensive any where from $100,000 to $1 million.
  1. You could start something from scratch, a completely new business, but most people don’t have the confidence that their product or service idea would really go big, or they are afraid to borrow that much money, or they don’t feel they have the skill set to start a new venture, especially in our regulation ridden and litigious society.
  1. They could become an investor in other people’s ideas and start-ups, but that can prove to be very risky indeed. Harry Dent says, “Venture capitalists, who are the very best and the most sophisticated at investing in new break-through businesses make it on 1 out of 11. That means 10 out of 11 are mediocre or fail, with most of the 10 failing. And Angel investors are lucky to get 1 out of 15 or 20.”

Robert Kiyosaki relates, “A business is a team sport. Like I have to have       accountants, I have to have engineers, I have to have system designers, I have to have office staff and management, I have to have maintenance and sales and marketing, I have to have mission statements, I have to have legal, and all that.

The average joe-smo, even me, I go out there, I don’t have the skills to put a business together on my own.”

The food and hospitality industry has even a greater risk of failure.  Authorities say that 90% of all first year non-franchise restaurants fail.

downloadEven though 72% of Americans say they want to be entrepreneurs and be their own boss, the bottom line for the four traditional options is that each takes money, sometimes a lot of it, they take expertise and they take time. All of that adds up to just too much risk for most people.

But what if there was a way that you could have all of the proven aspects of business ownership and still control your own life? What if you had the proven product, the proven systems already in place, proven training, and you were in charge. And you didn’t have to risk a ton of money.

What if you had all of these good aspects of business minus the employer? Do you think more people would be open to working for themselves in that environment?

 

The New Economy: Entrepreneurship, Part One

[This is the transcript of a lecture I am preparing to give around the country. If you are in Las Vegas, contact me and I would be happy to deliver this lecture to your group over the next 60 days.]

downloadThe world is changing faster than ever. What used to take decades, is now taking years or months. And indirectly as a result of these changes, we have two looming crises, the elderly retirement crisis and the college-grad employment crisis.

Rumor has it that corporate America is not a safe place to work anymore. We’ve seen our friends get laid off or maybe we’ve been laid off. Some of those who are still working have had their pay cut. So Americans are overworked and underpaid and they seem to have less time and less freedom.

And there’s something wrong with society when we can measure at a national level, a 35% increase in the chance of a heart attack every Monday morning as people rush off to their jobs.

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As of April 3, 2015, the Economic Policy Institute reported that,

In a complex economy, conventional measurements fall short. At 14.5 percent, the unemployment rate of workers under age 25 was slightly over twice as high as the overall unemployment rate, 6.7 percent.

 

But in today’s labor market, the unemployment rate drastically understates the weakness of job opportunities. This is due to the existence of a large pool of “missing workers”(3.3 million-adds at least 3 points)—potential workers who, because of weak job opportunities, are neither employed nor actively seeking a job.

 

In other words, these are people who would be either working or looking for work if job opportunities were significantly stronger. Because jobless workers are only counted as unemployed if they are actively seeking work, these “missing workers” are not reflected in the unemployment rate. http://www.epi.org/publication/missing-workers/

Technology is accelerating and job security is rapidly declining. It just doesn’t seem like the 20th century models of making a living are as reliable as they used to be. In nearly every aspect of our lives we are adopting newer and better way to do things, but when it comes to earning a living, we are still stuck in the old ways.

We live in the greatest country on the planet but there are a lot of people sitting around being cynical. I say get a clue, there is a huge difference between “3rd world problems” and  “1st world problems.” People are complaining and whining about the upsets of the old model when the obvious conclusion is to leave it and embrace the new model, the new economy, and that is what we are here to talk about today.

imagesSince so much of our lives revolve around our work and the way we make our living, many people are thinking, there just has to be a better way.

The biggest challenge facing our world today is not making money, but what to do with all of the displaced unemployed people. With all of this transformation around us, people are being forced to make changes in employment and lifestyle, but they are frozen by indecision, afraid of making the wrong new career choice or afraid they don’t have the right skill set.

It’s time to face the truth: the industrial age is dead.

And as a result, going to school to be educated for employment is fast becoming an obsolete idea. A steady paycheck and the security of a single employer is an anemic industrial age idea.

Watch for Part Two

“It’s Like An App Store For Mentorship”

 

Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller

What do Buckminster Fuller, Peter J. Daniels, and Andrew Carnegie all have in common?

  • They each achieved huge fortunes.
  • All three greatly influenced the politics of their time.
  • Each made philanthropy or the giving away of millions of dollars a major focus.
  • And each started out poor, uneducated, with no special advantages of birth, pedigree, or station.
Peter J. Daniels

Peter J. Daniels

Within the biographies of each of these men can be found the secret to their vast fortunes and lasting influence:        PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT.

The life of each man tells a similar story of finding themselves in a place of extreme physical discomfort, no father figure to speak of, and a fervent search for a way to improve their situation.

Each had a defining moment when they realized they were of value and they worked very hard to improve their knowledge of the world, their language and communication skills, their business knowledge and skill set, their financial standing, and their relationships. And they did it through what we call Personal Development.

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie

Most Americans spend way too much time (nearly 6 hours per day) engaged in entertainment and frivolous pursuits–and almost no time in personal development.

What would happen in our relationships, our careers, our community involvement, and our understanding of God and the cosmos if we took just 1 hour a day from our less lofty pursuits (mindless texting and Facebooking and gaming) and used it to improve ourselves?

Seriously…what would happen?

We all want to do better. We want to be better, feel better, have better relationships, provide more and help others more.

A person I respect once said, “the most dangerous information in this entire world is what we don’t know.”

And what we don’t know may just be the difference between an exciting passionate marriage and “just hanging in there.” What we don’t might be why we can’t seem to go to the next level in our business or in our relationships with our children.

I am not trying to add more to your plate, I know it’s already full. But I am suggesting that you take a minute and check out The Conscious Creator Mentoring Network and see if you can find something that might be worth trading for an hour of internet surfing or Facebook.

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If you want a more in-depth sneak peak into the “Vault,” reply to this email and I will be happy arrange that.

 

“It’s not that they can’t see the solution. They can’t see the problem.” – G.K. Chesterton

“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.” – Chinese proverb

Melt Down To A New Economy

Meltdown: A Free-Market Look At Why The Stock Market Collapsed, The Economy Tanked, And Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse.” That is the title to Thomas Woods’ 2009 book. It is so good I am sad that I didn’t read it when it was first published.

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Please do not turn away in disinterest…I know this may not be your favorite topic, but the key to financial autonomy in knowledge and proper application…here is where it begins.

Thomas E. Woods, Jr. is an American historian, political analyst, and author.

Woods is a New York Times best-selling author and has published eleven books including the Politically Incorrect Guide To American History, and The Church Confronts Modernity: Catholic Intellectuals and the Progressive Era.

He takes the complicated and contrasting concepts of Keynesian and Austrian economics and simplifies them so even I can understand the differences and proper application of timeless principles.

F.A. Hayek

F.A. Hayek

He walks you through:

  • The basics of Keynesian Economics vs Austrian Economics
  • Historical perspectives regarding numerous so called American economic depressions/recessions and crystalizes the matter for maximum understanding
  • Fractionalization and monetary policy
  • The underground debate of American economic historians
  • How Americans never seem to learn from the past, especially our own past
  • The need for Free Enterprise and an Economic “government-free” mindset

Here are a couple of quotes from his books:

The economist F.A. Hayek won the Nobel Prize is economics in 1974 for a theory of the business cycle that holds great explanatory power — especially in light of the 2008 financial crisis, which so many economists have been at a loss to explain. Hayek’s work, which builds on a theory developed by economist Ludwig von Mises, finds the root of the boom-bust cycle in the central bank. In our case that’s the Federal Reserve Bank System, the very institution that postures as the protector of the economy and the source of relief from business cycles…the Fed…can expand and contract the money in the economy, and can influence the movement of interest rates upward or downward.

 

Looking at the money supply makes sense when looking for the root of an economy-wide problem. After all, money is the one thing present in all corners of the market, as Lionel Robbins points out in his 1943 book, The Great Depression. “Is it not probable,” he asked, “that disturbances affecting many lines of industry at once will be found to have monetary causes?  

John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes

Later Woods talks about the Keynes’s fantasy of a permanent economic boom:

In the short run the result of the central bank’s lowering of the interest rates is the apparent prosperity of the boom period.  Stocks and real estate shoot up. New construction is everywhere, businesses are expanding their capacity, and people are enjoying a high standard of living. But the economy is on a sugar high, and reality inevitably sets in. Some of those investments will prove to be unsustainable and will have to be abandoned, with the resources devoted to them having been partially or completely squandered. 

 

That is one of the reasons the Fed cannot simply pump more credit into the economy and keep the boom going. Yet the economist John Maynard Keynes–who is oddly back in fashion in Washington (even though his system collapsed in the in the early 1970’s when it couldn’t account for “stagflation”)–proposed exactly this: “The remedy for the boom is not a higher rate of interest but a lower rate of interest! For that may enable the so-called boom to last. The right remedy for the trade cycle is not to be found in abolishing booms and thus keeping us permanently in a semi-slump; but in abolishing slumps and keeping us permanently in a quasi-boom.” 

 

download (1)I highly recommend this book to all who want to understand what is happening around us economically and the proper and not-so-proper role of government vs free enterprise.

The Industrial Age (1850-1990??) was a time of massive upheaval regarding the manufacture and production of goods worldwide.

It widened the gap between capital and labor, owner and laborer.

In many ways the current collision of the Industrial and Information Ages has disrupted the order and balance of things far beyond anything we can imagine and with the advent of 3-D printing and things like nano-technology, stem-cell research, and the new relationship between manufacturing and advertising/distribution, we are most certainly entering a New Economy.

This new economy can be identified by key words and phrases such as “multiple-streams-of-income,” Network Marketing, Entrepreneurship, non-traditional business, and private retirement planning. Like it or not, the world of business is changing–and to survive–to succeed, we will have to embrace that change.

 

download (2)P.S. My wife has taken my constant dialog about Free Enterprise, American Economic Independence, and multi-streams-of-income to heart and has started her own company promoting skin care products.  I share it here only to exemplify the New Economy:

Look Ten Years Younger In 2 Minutes:

Instantly Ageless Demo

Click Here For More Information

Maybe Forrest Gump Was Right


Retirement.

imagesMost Americans are either ignoring this fact of life hoping it will go away, or facing its eventuality with fear and trembling.

Based on a year’s worth of research, I am certain that 9 out of 10 people reading this blog fit that category.

There is plenty of available data showing the hopelessness of the situation.

Economists speculate on the massive Baby Boomer retirement fall-out they say is sure to come over the next decade.

From numerous reports it appears that the typical bread-winner leaves the workforce at age 65 with around $50,000 in assets —a drop in the retirement bucket especially as many are living longer.

download (1)OK fine, we are facing economic challenges, so what?

Our predecessors faced and overcame challenges for centuries. America has a long and illustrious history of standing up to adversity and coming out on top.

For crying out loud—our ancestors carved a civilization out of the wilderness, populated an unknown land, produced most of the world’s food, most of the technology and single-handedly create a new thing called the middle-class while other nations watched in utter amazement.

How did they do this?

Americans are resilient. Americans are resourceful. We dream big and play big. And what of Yankee Ingenuity, the Puritan Work Ethic, common sense, and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps?

images (1)For two centuries, we provided hope for a life with political freedom, economic prosperity, and an increased standard of living for millions around the globe, but now we are being told that we are finished, beyond hope, and helpless to solve our current crisis.

And some are actually falling for it. I refuse to accept that version of reality.

I refuse to acknowledge that the American Dream can no longer become the American Life.

I refuse to give-in, knuckle under, and forfeit my children’s future.

My version of reality is that there is actually more opportunity now for financial success than at any time in the history of America—if we will embrace it!

Please forgive me if what I write here offends you but seriously, how wimpy are we? Humanity has overcome crises and challenges much greater than the American retirement problem.

Don’t get me wrong, at least in terms of impact, this is a pervasive challenge and has serious national implications not unlike the specter of global domination by the Nazis or the challenges of the Great Depression. And if you are in your 50’s or 60’s this is without a doubt scary and imposing.

But when you remove the emotion and analyze it scientifically, it is simply a matter of understanding the causes of the problem and devising solutions. Ok, so maybe we will have to voluntarily reduce our standard of living for a while or stop going into debt for vacations or the latest fashions. Gasp…we might even have to live within our means…are these things really that hard to understand and implement?

Maybe Forrest Gump was right, “stupid is as stupid does.” Sorry but our choices over the past 3 decades have put us in this position.

Robert Kiyosaki's Cashflow Quadrants

Robert Kiyosaki’s Cashflow Quadrants

The American retirement problem is nothing more than an issue of perspective.

Look at the Cashflow Quadrants chart—American economic philosophy was founded on the Business and Investor side of the chart or the concept of entrepreneurship.

Americans from the very beginning lived from the perspective and belief that they had to take care of themselves.

They knew their standard of living and financial security rested on their personal ability to plan for the future and to take full responsibility for that future.

But since the Industrial Revolution, our general economic philosophy has shifted to the employee side of the chart. Entrepreneurship is actually shunned by most, or at the very least, misunderstood. We traded common citizen business savvy and investor acumen for the accumulation or “nest egg” mentality, which has morphed over the last 30 years into an existence of life-long debt and dependence on government.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that being an employee alone leads to economic slavery and dependence. Without the basic tenets of business and investing as part of our personal financial strategy, we have no hope of true prosperity and financial security.

So the solution is simple—return to our former philosophy of owning businesses and investing. I know that this might be simple in concept but difficult in application however, this is where our ingenuity, tenacity and hard work come in.

Thousands of Americans have figured this out and you can too if you only have the will and desire to make the necessary changes. If you are serious about changing your situation and are willing to focus and even sacrifice for five to ten years, you can solve the American retirement crisis for yourself and perhaps even share your solutions with friends and family.

While there are undoubtedly dozens of potential fixes to choose from, I have 2 that I recommend as solutions to the American Retirement Crisis.

FF 2.0

 

 

 

AFP-Stacked-Logo

 

 

 

But they will only serve as solutions if you actually act on them, so click on these links and investigate the options they provide. If these are not the right actions for you to take fine, BUT TAKE ACTION some how to change your current situation. You are your best chance at a secure financial future.

The Sentence That Knocked Down the Berlin Wall (But Almost Didn’t)

This post is a reprint of the November 5 ,2014 article from the Intercollegiate Review.

 

Twenty-five years ago last week, the Berlin Wall fell. 

Twenty-five years ago last week, the Berlin Wall fell.

In retrospect, what event fails to suggest a certain inevitability about itself, conveying the sense that because it happened it had to have happened?

Twenty-five years ago this week, the Berlin Wall finally fell.

Of course it did.

How could it have remained in place a day longer? For that matter, how could the Soviet Union itself have failed to fall?

How could the Cold War have ended any other way than in a victory for the West?

History preserves only the events that took place, permitting the alternatives—the contingencies and near misses—to fade, disappearing completely in the end.

Yet if you’d like proof that history isn’t predetermined—that history contains within itself a multitude of alternative realities, of near misses and might-have-beens—consider the address that President Ronald Reagan delivered at the Brandenburg Gate twenty-nine months before the Berlin Wall came down.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Those words were very nearly dropped from the president’s text.

How do I know? I wrote the address.

The Angry Hausfrau

Über_den_Dächern_von_BerlinIn April 1987 the celebrations for the 750th anniversary of the founding of Berlin were under way.

Queen Elizabeth had already visited the city. Mikhail Gorbachev was due in a matter of days.

Although President Reagan hadn’t been planning to visit Berlin himself, he was going to be in Europe in early June, first visiting Rome, then spending several days in Venice for an economic summit.

At the request of the West German government his schedule was adjusted to permit him to stop in Berlin for a few hours on his way back to the United States from Italy.

I was then serving as a speechwriter to the president and was assigned to write the Berlin address. I was told only that the president would be speaking at the Berlin Wall, that he was likely to draw an audience of about ten thousand, and that, given the setting, he probably ought to talk about foreign policy.

In late April I spent a day and a half in Berlin with the White House advance team, the logistical experts, Secret Service agents, and press officials who went to the site of every presidential visit to make arrangements. All I had to do in Berlin was find material. When I met the ranking American diplomat in Berlin, I assumed he would give me some.

A stocky man with thick glasses, the diplomat projected an anxious, distracted air throughout our conversation, as if the very prospect of a visit from Ronald Reagan made him nervous. The diplomat gave me quite specific instructions. Almost all of it was in the negative. He was full of ideas about what the president shouldn’t say.

The most left-leaning of all West Germans, the diplomat informed me, West Berliners were intellectually and politically sophisticated. The president would therefore have to watch himself. No chest thumping. No Soviet bashing. And no inflammatory statements about the Berlin Wall. West Berliners, the diplomat explained, had long ago gotten used to the structure that encircled them.

After I left the diplomat, several members of the advance team and I were given a flight over the city in a U.S. Air Force helicopter. Although all that remains of the wall these days are paving stones that show where it stood, in 1987 the structure dominated Berlin. From the air, the wall seemed less to cut one city in two than to separate two different modes of existence.

On one side lay movement, color, modern architecture, crowded sidewalks, traffic. On the other lay a kind of void. Buildings still exhibited pockmarks from shelling during the war. Cars appeared few and decrepit, pedestrians badly dressed.

The wall itself, which from West Berlin had seemed a simple concrete structure, was revealed from the air as an intricate complex, the East Berlin side lined with guard posts, dog runs, and row upon row of barbed wire. The pilot drew our attention to pits of raked gravel. If an East German guard ever let anybody slip past him to escape to West Berlin, the pilot told us, the guard would find himself forced to explain the footprints to his commanding officer.

That evening, I broke away from the advance team to join a dozen Berliners for dinner. Our hosts were Dieter and Ingeborg Elz. Germans themselves, the Elzes had retired to Berlin after Dieter completed his career at the World Bank in Washington. Although we had never met, we had friends in common, and the Elzes offered to put on this dinner party to give me a feel for their city. They had invited Berliners of different walks of life and political outlooks—businessmen, academics, students, homemakers.

BerlinermauerWe chatted for a while about the weather, German wine, and the cost of housing in Berlin.

Then I related what the diplomat told me, explaining that after my flight over the city I found it difficult to believe.

“Is it true?” I asked. “Have you gotten used to the wall?”

The Elzes and their guests glanced at one another uneasily.

I thought I had proven myself just the sort of brash, tactless American the diplomat was afraid the president might seem.

Then one man raised an arm and pointed. “My sister lives twenty miles in that direction,” he said. “I haven’t seen her in more than two decades. Do you think I can get used to that?”

Another man spoke. Each morning on his way to work, he explained, he walked past a guard tower. Each morning, the same soldier gazed down at him through binoculars. “That soldier and I speak the same language. We share the same history. But one of us is a zookeeper and the other is an animal, and I am never certain which is which.”

Our hostess broke in. A gracious woman, she had suddenly grown angry. Her face was red. She made a fist with one hand and pounded it into the palm of the other. “If this man Gorbachev is serious with his talk ofglasnost and perestroika,” she said, “he can prove it. He can get rid of this wall.”

“That’s What I’d Like to Say”

Back at the White House I told Tony Dolan, then director of presidential speechwriting, that I intended to adapt Ingeborg Elz’s comment, making a call to tear down the Berlin Wall the central passage in the speech. Tony took me across the street from the Old Executive Office Building to the West Wing to sell the idea to the director of communications, Tom Griscom.

“The two of you thought you’d have to work real hard to keep me from saying no,” Griscom now says. “But when you told me about the trip, particularly this point of learning from some Germans just how much they hated the wall, I thought to myself, ‘You know, calling for the wall to be torn down—it might just work.’ ”

The following week I produced an acceptable draft. It needed work, but it set out the main elements of the address, including the challenge to tear down the wall. On Friday, May 15, the speeches for the president’s trip to Rome, Venice, and Berlin, including my draft, were forwarded to the president, and on Monday, May 18, the speechwriters joined him in the Oval Office. My speech was the last we discussed. Tom Griscom asked the president for his comments on my draft. The president replied simply that he liked it.

Now, you might suppose that after hearing the president say he liked his draft, a speechwriter would feel so delighted he’d leave it at that. Somehow, it didn’t work that way. As a speechwriter you spent your working life watching Reagan, talking about Reagan, reading about Reagan, attempting to inhabit the very mind of Reagan. When you joined him in the Oval Office, you didn’t want to hear him say simply that he liked your work. You wanted to get him talking, revealing himself. So you’d go into each meeting with a question or two you hoped would intrigue him.

at-desk“Mr. President,” I said, “I learned on the advance trip that your speech will be heard not only in West Berlin but throughout East Germany.”

Depending on weather conditions, I explained, radios would be able to pick up the speech as far east as Moscow itself.

“Is there anything you’d like to say to people on the other side of the Berlin Wall?”

The president cocked his head and thought. “Well,” he replied, “there’s that passage about tearing down the wall. That wall has to come down. That’s what I’d like to say to them.”

Squelchfest

With three weeks to go before it was delivered, the speech was circulated to the State Department and the National Security Council (NSC). Both attempted to squelch it. The assistant secretary of state for Eastern European affairs challenged the speech by telephone.

A senior member of the NSC staff protested the speech in memoranda. The ranking American diplomat in Berlin objected to the speech by cable. The draft was naive. It would raise false hopes. It was clumsy. It was needlessly provocative. State and the NSC submitted their own alternate drafts—my journal records that there were no fewer than seven, including one written by the diplomat in Berlin. In each, the call to tear down the wall was missing.

Now, in principle, State and the NSC had no objection to a call for the destruction of the wall. The draft the diplomat in Berlin submitted, for example, contained the line, “One day, this ugly wall will disappear.” If the diplomat’s line was acceptable, I wondered at first, what was wrong with mine?

Then I looked at the diplomat’s line once again. “One day”? One day the lion would lie with the lamb, too, but you wouldn’t want to hold your breath. “This ugly wall will disappear”? What did that mean? That the wall would just get up and slink off of its own accord? The wall would disappear only when the Soviets knocked it down or let somebody else knock it down for them, but “this ugly wall will disappear” ignored the question of human agency altogether.

What State and the NSC were saying, in effect, was that the president could go right ahead and issue a call for the destruction of the wall—but only if he employed language so vague and euphemistic that everybody could see right away he didn’t mean it.

The week the president left for Europe, Tom Griscom began summoning me to his office each time State or the NSC submitted a new objection. Each time, Griscom had me tell him why I believed State and the NSC were wrong and the speech, as I’d written it, was right. When I reached Griscom’s office on one occasion, I found Colin Powell, then deputy national security adviser, waiting for me. I was a thirty-year-old who had never held a full-time job outside speechwriting.

Powell was a decorated general. After listening to Powell recite all the arguments against the speech in his accustomed forceful manner, however, I heard myself reciting all the arguments in favor of the speech in an equally forceful manner. I could scarcely believe my own tone of voice. Powell looked a little taken aback himself.

President Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate June 12, 1987

President Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate June 12, 1987

A few days before the president was to leave for Europe, Tom Griscom received a call from the White House chief of staff, Howard Baker, asking Griscom to step down the hall to his office.

“I walked in and it was Senator Baker [Baker had served in the Senate before becoming chief of staff] and the secretary of state—just the two of them.”

Secretary of State George Shultz now objected to the speech.

“He said, ‘I really think that line about tearing down the wall is going to be an affront to Mr. Gorbachev,’ ” Griscom recalls.

“I told him the speech would put a marker out there. ‘Mr. Secretary,’ I said, ‘the president has commented on this particular line and he’s comfortable with it. And I can promise you that this line will reverberate.’ The secretary of state clearly was not happy, but he accepted it. I think that closed the subject.”

It didn’t.

When the traveling party reached Italy (I remained in Washington), the secretary of state objected to the speech once again, this time to deputy chief of staff Kenneth Duberstein. “Shultz thought the line was too tough on Gorbachev,” Duberstein says.

On June 5, Duberstein sat the president down in the garden of the estate in which he was staying, briefed him on the objections to the speech, then handed him a copy of the speech, asking him to reread the central passage.

Reagan asked Duberstein’s advice. Duberstein replied that he thought the line about tearing down the wall sounded good. “But I told him, ‘You’re president, so you get to decide.’ And then,” Duberstein recalls, “he got that wonderful, knowing smile on his face, and he said, ‘Let’s leave it in.’ ”

The day the president arrived in Berlin, State and the NSC submitted yet another alternate draft. “They were still at it on the very morning of the speech,” says Tony Dolan. “I’ll never forget it.” Yet in the limousine on the way to the Berlin Wall, the president told Duberstein he was determined to deliver the controversial line. Reagan smiled. “The boys at State are going to kill me,” he said, “but it’s the right thing to do.”

The Lessons of History

No matter how it may seem in retrospect, there was nothing inevitable about the event that took place twenty-five years ago this week. The fall of the Berlin Wall took place because certain men and women—people including Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, and Ronald Reagan—took certain specific actions, demonstrating their capacity for reason and courage. And that, really, is why we study history: to remind ourselves that if those who went before us could do the right thing, then we can do no less ourselves.

 

Peter Robinson is editor in chief of Ricochet.com, research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and host of the interview program Uncommon Knowledge. He is the author of several books, including How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life, from which parts of this essay are adapted.