Ambassador Michael C. Polt
Reagan Book Launch Remarks
June 13, 2012
TV Tower Tallinn
Thank you all for joining us this beautiful morning to introduce the translation of President Ronald Reagan’s book, An American Life, into Estonian.
I think our former President would approve of the symbolism of the place we have chosen to mark this occasion: the TV Tower, a symbol of the Estonian will to defeat oppression and regain its independence, now a vantage point to look out over the beautiful and free Estonian Republic.
When President Reagan made his famous speech in Berlin in June of 1987, imploring then Soviet President Gorbachev to “Tear Down This Wall,” I was a young diplomat serving in our Embassy in the then still divided Germany in a divided Europe.
Some who heard the words that day were unsure or even dismissive of their impact. But I, along with the 50,000 people gathered at the Brandenburg Gate, along with millions following the event on television, felt -- and hoped – that something really important was happening.
Many of our diplomats had come to the divided city from our Embassy, which at the time was in Bonn.
Since some equally powerful words uttered by another U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, almost 50 years earlier, stating “Ich bin ein Berliner!” (I am a Berliner), Americans had identified with all Europeans separated from the free world by one of the ugliest symbols of totalitarianism – the Berlin Wall.
Even the rhetorical hope of breaking down this wall and with it the system it stood for conjured up awesome possibilities among all of us and among free and enslaved peoples everywhere. I can only imagine that this tower here in Tallinn bent just a little bit toward Berlin that day to check if the Estonian people had heard right!
And so history unfolded to unite a divided continent and to free oppressed peoples all over Europe. But here today in Estonia, both Americans and Estonians know that history has no legs of its own. People make history, as did Ronald Reagan in June of 1987, and as did the Estonian people in August of 1991.
As I said last year here in Tallinn as we commemorated President Reagan’s 100th birthday: “His vision, and his impact and importance to Americans, Estonians and freedom loving people throughout Europe and the world continues.
We owe it to his memory to never forget the world that was, nor the better new world he helped create in answer to countless prayers for freedom.”
And so this June is an appropriate month to again honor this man and an American vision.
This book is the culmination of a goal our Embassy set itself we set when we came together last year.
In collaboration with the hard work of translator Tauno Vahter and Tänapäev Publishers, as well as a new introduction written by Mari-Ann Kelam – Estonians -- for whom Ronald Reagan meant so much, can now read about his life, in his words and in their own language.
And now I invite you to give your attention to Mari-Ann as she highlights her important role in this project.