John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan: The Challenge of Freedom


Most Americans in the 1920's and 1930's were unaware of the crimes committed in the Soviet Union. Even today, the full extent of the carnage is unknown. This essay explores the ways in which Presidents Kennedy and Reagan dealt with the contrast between the open societies of the West and the severely damaged civil societies of the Soviet Bloc through the rhetorical presidency. Key speeches throughout the two administrations stressed the use of presidential rhetoric as a way of challenging the communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the USSR. For both Presidents, the key rhetorical moment came in West Berlin, in 1963 and 1987, respectively. Using comparable language, Kennedy and Reagan spoke of the hope offered by West Berlin to those suffering under communist rule. The highlight came when Reagan challenged the Soviet leaders to tear down the Wall separating the city. Ironically, the victory over Soviet bloc communism has not lead to the elimination of communist regimes, notably China. That chapter in the struggle against communism remains yet to be written.


History and Political Science

Keywords and Phrases

The Cold War; communism; presidential speeches

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2006 Institute for Interdisciplinary Research / International Christian Studies Association, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2006