Even if one knew nothing of Peter Robinson’s past, one would still find him to be one of the most interesting conversationalists alive today. His long-running show Uncommon Knowledge is simply the best of its kind–handily beating, in my reckoning, Charlie Rose and Conversations with Bill Kristol.
In his early 20s, having never written a speech in his life, Robinson landed a job in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building as a speechwriter for Vice President George H.W. Bush. Soon thereafter, he moved to the West Wing, filling the same position for President Reagan. It was this young speechwriter who, after interviewing a family in East Berlin (the Soviet sector of Berlin), penned the famous words for the President, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Virtually the entire White House, the military complex, including Colin Powell, put pressure on Robinson to remove the directive from the speech. Yet, he (rightly) thought it’s what Reagan would have said had he met with those families in East Berlin. So, he stuck to his guns.
The below video in which Pat Sajak interviews Robinson, conducted at the Reagan Library on the occasion of the speech’s 30th anniversary, is a noteworthy piece of media in its own right for two reasons. First, Robinson’s journey is remarkable, and the exchange gives a glimpse into the inner life of a man many of us feel like we’ve come to know through the years. Second, and most importantly, it shows the power of words, particularly words spoken by the President of the United States. I commend the whole interview to you: