The Berlin Wall came down twenty-five years ago this week. The Wall, which separated East and West Berlin, was one of the most powerful visible symbols of the metaphoric “Iron Curtain” which divided the Soviet Bloc nations from the free countries of Europe during the Cold War.
My friend John Fund, the former Wall Street Journal editorial writer, has often shared a human story from when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. He once met four teenage girls while visiting East Berlin in 1984. As he prepared to board the train that would take him back to the West, John asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up:
“A schoolteacher, said one. A hairdresser, said another. A nurse, said the third. Only Monika, the oldest and clearly the wisest, hesitated. Finally, she sighed and said, ‘It doesn’t make any difference what we become when we grow up. We will still always be treated like children.’”
That statement made a profound impact on John. He noted how he could go anywhere in the world from that street corner, but these teenagers could not go 500 yards to see the bright lights of West Berlin.
They had to remain in “a semi-comfortable, but drab existence, in which any independent thoughts they might have would be hidden within themselves from the government.”
John and Monika kept in touch over the next few years. Then, two days after the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, John’s phone rang.
There was the unmistakable sound of an overseas call. “This is Monika!” she shouted in halting English. “I am calling from Berlin West! I am over the Wall!”
Monika did not plan to flee East Germany. But now that the Wall was down, she could leave if the people who ran that government reneged on their promises of free elections and economic reforms.
John reminded Monika of their first meeting and asked if she felt she was finally being treated like a grownup.
“Yes,” she said. “I think everyone in my country decided for themselves to grow up overnight.”
Monika knew what it was like to be finally treated like an adult by her government; but Americans are now being treated more like children, as the limited government our Founders gave us morphs into a behemoth. It’s up to us to “tear down the Walls” of national programs like ObamaCare and the myriad regulatory barriers that impede freedom and opportunity here in Oregon.
Cascade Policy Institute has helped educate Oregonians since 1991 about the benefits of freedom and liberty. We look forward to working even more closely with everyone who is committed to keeping our communities and our state from being encircled by our own, self-created Berlin Walls.