Benedictine Convocation Remembers Reagan's Tear Down this Wall Speech

Benedictine Convocation Remembers Reagan's Tear Down this Wall Speech

Published: Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Peter Robinson, 2017 Convocation Speaker

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan delivered his famous “tear down this wall” speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Thirty years later, the Berlin Wall has now been down longer than it stood and Benedictine College welcomed the man who penned those famous words for the president. Former White House speechwriter Peter Robinson was the keynote speaker for this year’s Opening Convocation, the college’s annual academic gathering of students, faculty and staff, on August 29.

“The effects of any speech are difficult to trace,” Robinson said. “But over the years I've spoken with a number of people who listened to the speech on the other side of the Wall--the Communist side--in East Berlin. They have all said that the Wall seemed so permanent--such a fixed part of life--that hearing the president call for its destruction seemed incredible. The speech, I believe, helped make it possible for people in the East to think new thoughts, in particular to begin imagining as a tangible possibility a world without a Berlin Wall and without Communist regimes.” (You can watch the speech here.)

Robinson is now an author and research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, where he writes about business and politics, edits Hoover's quarterly journal, the Hoover Digest, and hosts Hoover's video series, “Uncommon Knowledge.” He is also the author of three books, including How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life and the best-selling business book Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA.

“I first became aware of Peter Robinson while reading How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life, which is a very enjoyable book,” said Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis. “His relationship with the late Msgr. Albacete and the way he attacks life made me think that he has a Benedictine spirit—he just doesn’t know it yet.  So we had to get him to Benedictine College.”

The college, especially the lengthy list of faculty accomplishments that is always part of the Convocation ceremony, impressed Robinson.

“Your faculty is superb, your college is well run and your campus is beautiful. I hope you know how blessed you are!” Robinson told the hundreds of students in attendance. He also told them to look to the sisters and monks as examples. “You want to give your life to something bigger than yourself? Look to the monks and sisters. They are the radicals. They are the counterculture now.”

Benedictine College’s convocation is the academic kickoff of the school year. This years marked the first for new Mount St. Scholastica prioress Sister Esther Fangman, who opened the event with a prayer.

The annual event follows the Opening School Mass, which features a priest alumnus as homilist. This year, Fr. Joseph Taphorn, pastor and director of the St. John Paul II Newman Center in Omaha, Neb., held that honor. He talked about his days at the school and said that Benedictine College “is an amazing place to live fully and encounter God.”

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.