Obama skipping commemoration of Berlin Wall falling is a tragedy

Some consider President Barack Obama’s refusal to attend next week’s commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany an outrage.

I consider it a tragedy.

To commemorate, after all, is to remember. And Americans need to remember, not just that the wall fell, but why it fell. We need to remember that the Berlin Wall was a symbol of more than just the Cold War, more than just the division of Europe.

It was a symbol of an evil ideology that denied human dignity, denied truth and only respected power.

When the wall fell, truth and human dignity triumphed over power. But that victory is not permanent.

Today, we are faced with new ideologies that challenge human dignity and regard truth as something they decree. At home, a growing culture of radical secularism declares that the nation cannot publicly profess the truths on which it was founded. Abroad, an irreconcilable wing of Islam believes that the lives of the innocent are expendable. 

And so we need to remember why the wall fell. And it’s a tragedy that the president will not lead us in remembering.

Nov. 9, 1989, was the culmination, not the beginning, of the advancement of human freedom and dignity in Eastern Europe.

The crack in the wall that would become a torrent that day was made 10 years earlier during Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to his native Poland.

Thirty years later, it’s difficult to grasp what a momentous event that was. As my wife, Callista, and I recount in our upcoming documentary, “Nine Days that Changed the World,” the pope was seen in person by an astonishing one-third of the Polish people at Masses and appearances across the country.

As he spoke, one by one, he punctured the lies of communism.

During his first Mass in Poland, 1 million people who lived under a regime that said there was no God affirmed in spontaneous song, “We want God!”

Just 14 months after the pope left Poland, widespread strikes forced the official recognition of the trade union Solidarity. And from there, the dominos began to fall.

The message of human dignity that led to the toppling of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago is a true message of hope rooted in the spiritual nature of man and the freedom to know God.

And so it is a true shame that the president of the United States — this man who cloaks himself in the rhetoric of hope — won’t be pausing to remember.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has published 19 books, including 10 fiction and nonfiction best-sellers. He is founder of the Center for Health Transformation and chairman of American Solutions for Winning the Future. For more information, visit www.newt.org. His exclusive column for The Examiner appears Fridays.

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