Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) was president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. A staunch opponent of Communism, Reagan denounced the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” and provided support, both overt and covert, to anti-Communist resistance movements around the world. However, as Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev launched reform initiatives known as glasnost and perestroika, Reagan shifted to engaging with the USSR on a diplomatic level, as he held several summits with Gorbachev between 1985 and 1988. During the last of these summits, held in Russia, Reagan addressed students at Moscow State University, where he set forth his vision for the spread of freedom across the world. Reagan pointed to the nascent information revolution as a potential means of progress and economic development, but warned, “Progress is not foreordained. The key is freedom – freedom of thought, freedom of information, freedom of communication.” Touching on the global growth of democracy, Reagan emphasized the principle of freedom, painting a picture of the liberties Americans enjoyed, from elections to courtrooms, schools and universities. Reagan concluded with a call for openness and reform, and the “hope that the marvelous sound of a new openness will keep rising through, ringing through, leading to a new world of reconciliation, friendship, and peace.” Reagan’s words were prescient; just a year and a half later, the Berlin Wall fell, and in 1991 the Soviet Union itself disintegrated.
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