“Our fates are linked, and we cannot ignore those who are yearning not only for freedom but also prosperity… I’m confident that working with Germany, we can keep each other safe while at the same time maintaining those essential values for which we fought for.”
Amidst a crowd of flag-cheering Berliners and blinding sunshine, President Obama repeated these words and echoed the famous words of President John F. Kennedy at Brandenburg Gate – “Ich bin ein Berliner,” German for “I am a Berliner.”
In 1963 the expression forged a unity of ideals, beliefs and friendship between West Germany and the U.S when it came to defending freedom and democracy after the East Germans erected the Berlin wall to prevent mass emigration to the West.
Unlike the security measures and bullet-proof window that Obama stood behind yesterday, Kennedy delivered his speech unimpeded by a sea of 200,000 on the steps of the town hall in West Berlin. And unlike Kennedy’s revered visit, only 6,000 guests, carefully vetted by security operations, were allowed inside the square known as Pariser Platz.
While watching Obama’s speech, I was reminded of my last visit to Germany’s largest city.
Cold war connoisseurs have no shortage of commemorative sites dedicated to Kennedy when they visit Berlin. There is the German-American John F. Kennedy School, the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies and the place where Kennedy’s speech was delivered – the John F.Kennedy Platz – a name given 3 days after Kennedy was assassinated.
And surrounding Kennedy Square is a must-see – the Rathaus Schöneberg (town hall) where a donated American bell nicknamed the “freedom bell” rang every day from 1950 until 1989.