Peter Robinson (speechwriter)
Peter Mark Robinson (born April 18, 1957) is an American author, research fellow, television host and former speechwriter for then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and President Ronald Reagan. He is currently the host of Uncommon Knowledge, an interview show by Stanford's Hoover Institution. He is also a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Early life and education
Robinson grew up in Vestal, New York. He attended Dartmouth College from 1975 to 1979, where he was a member of Kappa Kappa Kappa, and wrote for The Dartmouth. He majored in English and graduated summa cum laude, then continued his studies at Christ Church, Oxford University, pursuing a second Bachelor's degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and graduating in 1982. Robinson also attended the Leland Stanford Junior University's Graduate School of Business. He graduated with an MBA in 1990.
Immediately upon graduation, Robinson applied for a position at the White House. In an event he describes as a "fluke", he was given a job as the chief speechwriter for Vice President Bush. In what he calls a "second fluke", he was then transferred to President Reagan's staff as a special assistant and speechwriter, where he wrote the famed 1987 Tear down this wall address. Referencing Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's refusal to remove the Berlin Wall, the speech, delivered by Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin on 12 June 1987, contained the sentence: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
On arrival in the city before writing the speech, Robinson was warned by US diplomats to avoid Cold War rhetoric and that Berliners had adjusted to the presence of the Berlin Wall. However, after consultation with local Berliners, he found them deeply wounded and concerned about the wall; in many instances it had separated families and represented an intrusion of a police state into daily life. Returning to Washington D.C., Robinson's phrase became controversial with the State Department and other staff members, including Chief of Staff Howard Baker and National Security Advisor Colin Powell. Repeated attempts were made to remove it from the speech, but Reagan overruled them, wishing to communicate not only with West Berliners but with East Germans on the other side of the wall. Reagan went so far as to say "yes, this wall will fall", and that "As long as this gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind."
In total, Robinson wrote more than 300 speeches during his tenure at the White House. After serving for six years, Robinson decided to attend business school at Stanford University, graduating a third time in 1990 with a Master of Business Administration. The journal he kept of his two-year experience there was the basis for his book Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA, published in 1994, which details the considerable difficulty he encountered during the first year of business school due to his lack of a "quantitative background".
In the early 1990s, Robinson joined the News Corporation run by Rupert Murdoch, and then served as press secretary to the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 1993, Robinson became a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford's conservative research center. In addition to writing about business and politics, he also edits the Hoover Digest and hosted a PBS public affairs television program Uncommon Knowledge, later re-branded as a Web cast at hoover.org, and then arranged to be released semiweekly on National Review Online. He has written How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life and It’s My Party: A Republican's Messy Love Affair with the GOP, a study of the Republican Party.
Personal life and writings
Robinson lives in northern California with his wife and their five children. In 2003, he published his third book, How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life. He has stated that it is "nothing less than a love story – an account of the profound respect and affection that one young man came to feel for the President who changed his life forever." The book received a favorable review from Margaret Thatcher, and she has remarked that it features a "wealth of insights".
- "Appointment of Peter M. Robinson as Special Assistant to the President and Speechwriter". The Papers of the Presidents. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
- Peter Robinson, Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA, 1994, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, paperback, ISBN 1-85788-080-3, pg 12
- "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life". Heritage Foundation. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
- Four Words That Moved the World: 'Tear Down This Wall' – The Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2012.
- Text and audio of the Berlin Wall
- vidcast program Uncommon Knowledge
- Biography from Dartmouth Trustees Site
- Peter Robinson papers
- Appearances on C-SPAN