The Reagan-Bush-Gorbachev Meeting on Governors Island: A Debriefing and a Walk
Standing in front of the 43rd U.N. General Assembly, Mikhail Gorbachev began his speech by describing the sweeping changes of revolutionary history, acknowledging the surge of recent change sweeping the Soviet republics. He tells the members of "the profound democratic reform of the entire system of power and government," including the end to state control over public associations, an end to political imprisonment, the end of travel restrictions, and a firmer commitment to the notion of human rights.
|"Gorbachev said each time they met the weather got better. The President replied jovially that we arranged that.||"|
|"Turning to substance, Gorbachev said he hoped what he had said at the UN had not contained surprises."|
|(Gorbachev) "As for this meeting, it was not for negotiations; it resulted from his being in New York, and the President's and Vice President's invitation to meet on that occasion. He hoped it would be a useful meeting."|
|"Referring to the camera lights, Gorbachev commented that they were between a burning fire and bright lights. The President said that as a veteran of television he had found that the lights can make you look twelve years younger."|
|(after the press had departed) "Gorbachev said he knew Mr. Bush would become President only in January. He would (be) bringing new people with him."|
This meeting on Governors Island had come about because Gorbachev had requested one last meeting with President Reagan before Bush assumed the presidency. The conversation at the lunch meeting on the island on a cold December day, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, was characterized by a genial though rather superficial small talk. Press members were allowed a photo op of the meeting, and the highly symbolic images of the leaders standing at the water's edge that day were broadcast around the world. The text accompanying the images (above) of the Commander's house comes from Document 8: Memorandum of Conversation, "The President's Private Meeting with Gorbachev," December 7, 1988, 1:05-1:30 p.m., Commandant's residence, Governors Island, New York," available as a pdf from the archives page.
NOTES ON SOURCES:
These materials are reproduced from www.nsarchive.org with the permission of the National Security Archive. George Washington University. For more, please read The National Security Archive's "Reagan, Gorbachev and Bush at Governor's (sic) Island," posted December 8, 2008. About the archive: "An independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University, the Archive collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act."
The text of Gorbachev's UN speech may be found at this page from Temple University.
VISITING GOVERNORS ISLAND
Governors Island is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through October 10.
For additional information about Governors Island on this website, read A Beginner's Guide to Governors Island.
The walk from the ferry landing at Governors Island to the Commander's house is a short stroll.
View Governors Island in a larger map
Images of the Commander's House by Walking Off the Big Apple from July 17, 2010. Image of Bush, Reagan, and Gorbachev from the National Security Archive.