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The Fall of the Berlin Wall


The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was a week ago on November 9.  I remember it well.  CNN was still in its infancy and yet its coverage of the emotion of the crowd was worth watching long into the night.

Precedents for the fall of the wall were the discussions between the West and Mikhail Gorbachev.  Because of those discussions, President Reagan made one of the most famous speeches of the time at the Brandenburg Gate on June 12, 1987.   The most famous line of President Reagan’s speech was:  “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

I grew up during the Cold War.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s, all public schools held Air Raid drills.  We were taught where the fallout shelters were.  Our enemies were the Russians and Chinese.  As an undergraduate at Duke University, I was fascinated with American diplomacy and followed the policy of containment favored by George Kennan and the policy of arms superiority favored by Paul Nitze.  In the end, Kennan’s policy worked because of Nitze’s interpretation that the Soviets would only respect strength.

Twenty years after the fall of the wall, there’s now a generation of Americans who were born after the end of the Cold War.  Unfortunately, the world is not at peace.  The same technologies that have “flattened” the world (according to author Tom Friedman) have also provided terror groups with access to like-minded members around the world.  Fighting these groups will require a sophisticated alignment between domestic and international intelligence agencies as well as state and local law enforcement departments.  While this is not my area of expertise, I sense that this effort will require unprecedented cooperation and that some of the cooperation will be encumbered with political roadblocks.  Academic institutions can do our part by providing relevant courses and programs ranging from National Security and Diplomacy to Strategic Intelligence and Homeland Security.  I hope the era of terrorism falls sooner than it took for the wall to fall.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity by the U.S. Secretary of Education in 2019. He also serves as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), as a Trustee of The American College of Financial Services, as a member of the board of Our Community Salutes - USA, and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


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