A Dream Dinner With an Unsung Political Hero

John Bruton explains why he would like to shake Mikhail Gorbachev’s hand.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

John Bruton: I think I’d like to meet Mr. Gorbachev. I’ve met him, shook hands with him, but I’ve never sat down and talked to him. Because if you think about it, he probably did more to change the world than anybody. Yes, there were these tremendous tensions within the Soviet system, but instead of using force to repress those tensions, he adopted a policy of openness and Perestroika and Glasnost. Glasnost is openness and Perestroika was reform. And he sort of let air in. Now, he didn’t know how it was going to happen, in fact, what happened wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted to preserve the communist system. But he had enough confidence in the Russian people that he let them determine the future and he let the nations that had previously been under Soviet domination determine their own future without militarily interfering, and in that sense, he put his own convictions second to the confidence that he had in the people who previously had been repressed by his predecessors. So, while I think Ronald Reagan deserves credit, a lot of people deserve credit, and of course Václav Havel and Lech Wałęsa and all of these people in Poland, Czech Republic, and so forth, they deserve credit too, but they really wouldn’t have been able to do what they did, to basically reunite Europe and liberate people who had been under communism if Gorbachev wasn’t the man that Gorbachev is. And I think I would like to meet him. I don’t know how the conversation would go, I might be just telling him that I think he is a great guy, and he might be telling me, oh my god, I didn’t intend this, I wish it hadn’t happened the way it had. And I don’t know what would happen after that. But he is the man I would like to meet and would like to shake his hand.

Recorded on October 1, 2009