NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
President Ronald Reagan used these words during his speech at the Berlin Wall in June 1987. Twenty-eight months later, the wall came down.
A piece of this wall, adorned with a bronze profile of Reagan, will now be aboard the ship named in his honor.
Artist Chas Fagan, who created the bronze profile, presented the piece of the wall to Sailors aboard Precommissioning Unit Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Nov. 14 during a ceremony at the Victory Arch in Newport News, Va.
"Many of us who served during the Cold War remember what the Berlin Wall represented - oppression, communism and a lack of trust between two super powers," said Ronald Regan Commanding Officer Capt. Bill Goodwin. "This piece of the wall honors our namesake, whom many people credit with ending the Cold War."
Fagan said he observed some of these events from the other side of the wall, because he majored in Soviet Studies in college.
"Not long after I got out (of college), President Reagan managed to make that entire field of study just disappear," said Fagan. He joked that after the wall fell, he had to choose a new occupation - and drawing was the only other thing he did well.
"I have President Reagan to thank for my career in art," he said.
Fagan credited Warren McFadden, who established the Historic Berlin Wall Art Collection, with supplying the actual piece of the wall used in the profile.
"He has collected and stored the remaining portions of the Berlin Wall and is personally seeing to it that the memory of that symbol remains tangible through its use in art," Fagan said.
"The USS Ronald Reagan will sail with the memory of the President," he said. "The events of the past year have called on us to apply a bit of Reagan-like resolve in facing down those who would do us harm. The name 'Ronald Reagan' is a bold reminder of the strength that comes from character and steadfastness."
Before unveiling his work, he told the crew assembled for the ceremony that facing such an admirable group of men and women was an honor.
"Standing in the shadow of that ship, on this day, I am humbled," he said. "What this sculpture stands for is more powerful than the art that created it. It is infused with the legacy of President Reagan and the heavy symbolism of the Wall."
The aircraft carrier will be commissioned in Norfolk, Va., May 10, 2003.
For more information about the Sailors who will serve aboard USS Ronald Reagan, visit www.reagan.navy.mil. For more information about the commissioning ceremony, visit the Navy League website at www.ussronaldreagan.org.
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76.