Tom Griscom speaks about President Reagan's Berlin Wall speech on 30th anniversary of the fall
Saturday was the 30th anniversary since the Berlin Wall was torn down, one of the biggest turning points in history. Former Director of White House Communications and Chattanoogan Tom Griscom was an intricate part of President Reagan's speech that initiated the wall coming down.
Griscom was in the White House with President Reagan and was the first one to hear him deliver the famous line that ultimately led to fall of the Berlin Wall. He says that line has changed people's lives today.
Tom Griscom and the Chief of Staff had spoken with President Reagan several times about the line in his speech "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" But they wanted the president to see the words on paper and read it aloud so they had him practice.
"We walked out of the oval office, I said Senator there's no doubt this has to be in this speech. Just sitting on the couch as he was, you already could feel the power of words,” Griscom told us.
It went back and forth through the White House for a while. A lot of people on staff at the time didn't believe the president should say that to another world leader.
Griscom said, "Up to the day we were actually flying into Berlin was the last challenge by Secretary of State, George Shultz, to take it out."
Griscom was told he would ruin Reagan's presidency for including that in his speech. He remembers standing on the stage as Reagan was about to say the famous line.
"Went up on the toes of his feet as he delivered it. I mean he hit it, I mean it was exactly like we heard that first time."
The crowd was silent for what Griscom said felt like forever, and slowly they began to applaud.
He knew it was the right choice to keep it in, he just didn't realize the difference it would make for people around the world thirty years down the road.
Griscom said it was very special "To hear them talk about how President Reagan, changed their lives.”
He said he realized he made a difference when he watched the wall come down on TV with his wife, but didn't know the impact it had on families today until he visited Europe.