Travel Diary: Secretary Clinton Joins Students at Brandenburg Gate To Remember the Fall of the Wall

Posted by Elizabeth Corwin
November 9, 2009
Secretary Clinton With Students at Fall of Berlin Wall Commemoration

Trip Information Page | Interactive Travel Map | Text the SecretaryAbout the Author: Elizabeth Corwin serves as Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin.

My first trip to Berlin was in June 1987, when I stood on the west side of the Brandenburg Gate and listened to President Reagan call on Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. Here I am again, in almost the same spot, and I’m watching Secretary Clinton walk through the gate from east to west with a group of German high school students from the east. The map of this part of Europe has changed a lot since my first trip.

The high school students painted one of the domino stones that will fall during tonight’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall. We met the students through their English teacher, who participated in one of the embassy's programs to introduce East German teachers to the United States. If I think the world has changed, their teacher has experienced this more profoundly. In 1985, she began teaching Russian behind the Iron Curtain, and she is now chatting with the U.S. Secretary of State.

Her students were born after the Fall of the Wall and actually had to conduct research before painting their stone. One side of their stone displays an iconic Trabant car, packed suitcases and a rainbow and blue sky in the distance, images which symbolize the longing East Germans felt for freedom. The back side of the panel depicts the Angel of Hope. Twenty years ago today, the hopes of their parents came true.

Related Information: Voices of U.S. Diplomacy and the Berlin Wall Online Exhibition



New Jersey, USA
November 9, 2009

Rosemary in New Jersey writes:

This is a very emotional day for the many of us who remember when and how that wall went up and the unimaginable way it came down 20 years ago today. Everything we had grown up with, everything that wall represented, all the fears of the Cold War and the restrictions of the Iron Curtain dissolved so quickly, and the world was suddenly a very different place.

I am so happy to see our Secretary of State over there for this wonderful celebration of unification,peace, and life.

Thanks, Secretary Clinton, for representing us so well.

Virginia, USA
November 9, 2009

Joanna in Virginia writes:

As someone who was only 2 years old when the Berlin Wall came down, it is difficult to truly appreciate this 20 year anniversary. In my history classes I have read about the fall of the Berlin Wall and how it symbolized, in its own way, the end of an era. It symbolized an entire people finally finding the freedom they had been seeking. I have visited the Newseum in DC and seen a part of the wall. That is the closest I will come to knowing how it must of felt to witness that momentous occasion 20 years ago.

In her post, Ms. Corwin ends by saying that 20 years ago, the hopes of these high school students' parents came true. It makes me wonder: What even will we celebrate in 10, 15 or 20 years from now that my future children will have no remembrance of? What event will be celebrated for the way it changed the world we know? Perhaps it will be September 11. It's odd to think that there is an entire generation of children in America and around the world who have no recollection of life before that day.

Whatever the event may be, it is important that we take the time to celebrate their anniversaries. We learn from the past. Celebrating it provides us the opportunity to reflect not only on how far we have come, but on where it is we are going.

California, USA
November 10, 2009

Leslie in California writes:

As a Fulbright scholar living in the then-divided Berlin from 1987-88, I was fortunate (if you can call it that) to have experienced the reality of that divided city and it was always sobering: coming into West Berlin from West Germany via automobile, you could only drive on the Autobahn straight through, there were East German police stationed at the exits to ensure no one got off and took the "scenic route." And going into East Germany, where one had to exchange 25 German west Marks for 25 east Marks, was a Kafkaesque experience of grim checkpoints, stone-faced officials, and grey, grey, grey everywhere. Walking around East Berlin was like going back in time to the 1950's in the West. And yet, there was a sense of solidarity among people, see the movie Goodbye, Lenin, to get a sense of that, as it is difficult as an outsider used to certain freedoms to understand. And I'd like to add to the first post a thanks to HRC for so ably representing the United States as SoS.


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