Jewish World Review Nov. 9, 1999 /28 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760
The first universal holiday
TEN YEARS AGO TODAY, on Nov. 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall was battered down by
the people it had imprisoned. The event is regarded as the moment the Cold
War ended. For Americans without sentient memories of World War II, the end
of the Cold War has been the most momentous historical event of their
lifetimes, and so it will likely remain.
Long yearned for, the end of the Cold War has more than lived up to
expectations: Democracy is on the march globally, defense budgets are
proportionately down, market economics are beginning to flourish most
everywhere, everyday people are benefiting, every day.
The end of the Cold War was a process, not an event. By early 1989,
Gorbachev had pulled Soviet troops from Afghanistan, whipped. Poles elected
a non-communist government; the Soviets did nothing. Hungary,
Czechoslovakia, East Germany and later Bulgaria installed non-communist
governments. It was called "the Velvet Revolution," with only Romania the
exception; Nicolae Ceausescu and his empress were executed.
For almost two years, the U.S.S.R. remained a one-party communist state,
gradually eroding. Hard-liners attempted to resist the slow motion
dis-memberment. On Aug. 19, 1991, Boris Yeltsin stood on a tank to resist a
hard-line coup. The hammer-and-sickle came down; the Russian tri-color went
up. Other Soviet republics declared independence, including the big guy on
the block, Ukraine.
American diplomats did not "gloat" about it. The sovereign state of Russia
would be unstable enough without America rubbing it in.
On Dec. 4, 1991, I proposed in a column that a new national holiday be
established to commemorate the end of the Cold War. I asked readers to
participate in a contest to: 1. name it; 2. pick a date; and 3. propose a
method of celebration.
Several hundred submissions came in. Some of the most imaginative entries
for a name were: "Defrost Day," "Thaw Day," "Ronald Reagan Day," "Gorbachev
Day," "Borscht Day," "Peace Through Strength Day," "E Day" (which would
stand for "Evil Empire Ends Day"), "E2D2" ("Evil Empire Death Day"),
"Jericho Day," "Pax Americana Day" and "Kerensky Future Freedom Day"
(recalling that Yeltsin was not the first pro-democratic leader of Russia).
Scores of respondents offered "Liberty Day," "Democracy Day" and, mostly,
"Freedom Day." In June of 1992, I publicly proclaimed "Freedom Day" the
One suggestion for the date of the new holiday was June 5, for Adam Smith's
birthday. But the most votes went for Nov. 9, the day the wall fell. So
today I proclaim that date Freedom Day.
There were ideas about how to celebrate and commemorate Freedom Day: build a
sibling sculpture to the Statue of Liberty; eat potatoes, the universal
food; build a tunnel to Russia across the Bering Strait; thank G-d for
peace; welcome immigrants; meditate; issue a U.N. stamp; build ice
sculptures; send money to feed Russians; and do something you can't do in an
unfree country -- make a public speech, see a dirty movie, celebrate a
religion, travel across a border.
I propose that discussion about the mode of celebration be put on hold until
we get the holiday established.
How? Because all the major presidential candidates participated in the Cold
War, they should endorse the holiday. Legislators ought to push for it.
Anyone who worked in a defense industry, or paid federal taxes from 1945 to
1989, ought to support it. President Clinton ought to go to the Reagan
Library to endorse it.
I met with Mark Burman of the Reagan Presidential Foundation. He says they
are on board for a campaign. The other great presidential libraries --
Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter -- should join
So should anyone concerned with the teaching of American history. The
holiday will remind American children that their recent ancestors preserved
freedom. The Cold War generation may not be "the greatest" but they did
their job -- victory without a major hot war.
Americans can only create an American holiday. But we ought to invite all
other countries to join in, Russia first. The citizens of Russia won the
Cold War as surely as we did. If I were a Chinese dissident I'd promote the
idea; it might give their leaders a clue. It would be the First Universal
If you like the idea, or have ideas, you may e-mail by clicking below.
I'll pass the correspondence along to the appropriate persons, as soon as I
figure out who they
Ben Wattenberg is a senior fellow at the
American Enterprise Institute
and is the moderator of PBS's "Think Tank." You may comment by clicking here.
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