Classroom Activities

  1. This speech is in large part a response to Mikhail Gorbachev’s drastic reforms behind the Iron Curtain and his willingness to engage the West more cooperatively–actions that represented a radical departure from the previous 45 years of the Cold War.  In light of these significant changes, is Bush’s response fitting?  Should he have responded differently, perhaps more openly or dramatically?  Why or why not?
  2. Prior to his presidency, Bush had served as a WWII fighter pilot, a congressman from Texas, a diplomat to China, the American ambassador to the United Nations, the chair of the Republican National Committee, and Ronald Reagan’s vice president.  How do you think each of these roles and experiences impacted his strategy as president at the end of the Cold War?
  3. West Germany was home to a large number of American troops and a stockpile of NATO nuclear weapons.  With Soviet forces and weapons just across the border in East Germany, West Germany had long held a unique status as an almost unavoidable nuclear battleground if the Cold War ever became a hot war.  Does Bush address this unique burden when speaking to West Germans in this speech?  How does the status of West Germany factor into the address?
  4. Often when presidents speak on foreign policy, they are addressing multiple audiences at once.  These include, but are not limited to, the American citizenry, foreign allies, and foreign adversaries, among others.  What audiences are targeted in this speech, and in what ways does Bush address each of them?
  5. This was Bush’s first visit to Germany as president, and while the goal of his visit was to increase cohesion between the countries, nowhere in this address does he mention the highpoints of American-German unity, such as America’s aid through the Marshall Plan or the Berlin Airlift.  Why do you think he avoids these topics?

Student Research

  1. Bush delivered this speech the day after he brokered agreements with other NATO countries at the 1989 NATO Summit.  There are no indications that he called Congress overnight to discuss these agreements, so presumably he acted unilaterally, without congressional approval.  Write a research paper about the constitutional role of the president in foreign affairs using the events surrounding the NATO Summit and Mainz speech as a case study.  Was Bush acting constitutionally?
  2. When Bush delivered this speech, there was a general sense that the Cold War would soon end peaceably, but there was no guarantee.  Search the editorials and op-ed pieces of major national newspapers, such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, from May 1-June 1, 1989.  How did journalists respond to Bush’s foreign policy strategy?  What recommendations did they make, and is there any indication that Bush followed any of them?
  3. Read Martin J. Medhurst’s introduction to The Rhetorical Presidency of George H. W. Bush.  Reconcile the Mainz speech with Medhurst’s argument about Bush as a rhetorical president. Ultimately, write a research paper that assesses Bush’s rhetorical presidency.
  4. Read Fred I. Greenstein’s chapter, “The Highly Tactical Leadership of George H. W. Bush,” in Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to George W. Bush.  Here Greenstein examines the overall Bush presidency under the rubric of his “public communication,” “organizational capacity,” “political skill,” “vision,” “cognitive style,” and “emotional intelligence.”  Based on Greenstein’s characterization of Bush, perform a similar examination of Bush at the 1989 NATO Summit and at Mainz.
  5. If we were to name a “George H. W. Bush Doctrine” based on the principles of this speech–namely, to proceed slowly, cautiously, and cooperatively in world affairs–how would that compare with the “Bush Doctrine” attributed to his son, which emphasizes acting unilaterally if necessary, and has in practice proceeded quickly and with elements of “shock and awe?”  What are the advantages and disadvantages of these fundamentally different “doctrines?”  Is one better than the other? Address these issues in a research paper.

Citizenship Resources

  1. Locate two recent news articles and two recent opinion pieces about NATO’s role in the world.  How has NATO’s mission changed since the end of the Cold War?  Is it still relevant today?  What role should it play in contemporary international affairs?
  2. What is the current status and role of the American military in Western Europe?  How has it changed since 1989?  When did these changes occur?
  3. Even when making a speech largely about military and foreign policy matters, Bush called specific attention to issues related to the environment.  Find out what you can about concerns over the environment in terms of contemporary American military and foreign policy endeavors.  Should greater attention be given to the environment?  Why or why not?
  4. To what extent is Europe “whole and free” today?  Draft a speech relevant for today’s international milieu, wherein you call for greater cohesion between the United States and European countries.
  5. Conduct an Internet search and identify groups that exist to lobby the government on issues related to American nuclear weapons and/or military policy.  What are the primary issues these groups are concerned with?
  6. Will it be possible for the current War on Terror to “end” as the Cold War did?  How does dealing with individuals and groups, instead of states, make this conflict different?  Do any current political figures (the president, presidential candidates, members of Congress, etc.) or political pundits have a vision for how the War on Terror could end?  Locate from opinion columns and from presidential, congressional, and candidate websites as many positions as you can find about this particular issue.