Associated Press/Obama photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais

From Kennedy to Obama


Germans yesterday celebrated the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s famed “Ich bin ein Berliner” (“I am a Berliner”) speech. He spoke in Berlin on June 26, 1963, almost two years after Communist East Germany built the Berlin Wall to keep its citizens from fleeing to the West.

You can see and hear Kennedy’s 674-word speech in the video clip below. Before a crowd of 200,000 to 400,000 people (estimates vary widely) Kennedy offered a hard-hitting refrain:

“There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world.

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“Let them come to Berlin.

“There are some who say—there are some who say that communism is the wave of the future.

“Let them come to Berlin.

“And there are some who say, in Europe and elsewhere, we can work with the Communists.

“Let them come to Berlin.

“And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress.

“Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen.

“Let them come to Berlin.”

Fifty years ago Kennedy and other Americans knew the difference between freedom and slavery abroad, and were learning it as home as well through the work of the civil rights movement. Berliners heard Kennedy’s stirring call again yesterday at a ceremony with students from Berlin’s John F. Kennedy School reading excerpts from the speech in German and English.

President Barack Obama, legendary among journalists for his ability to inspire a crowd, spoke in Berlin last week. About 4,000 people heard his 3,300-word speech, which included these memorable lines:

“We’re now surrounded by the symbols of a Germany reborn. A rebuilt Reichstag and its glistening glass dome.”

“The struggle for freedom and security and human dignity, that struggle goes on.”

“We can forge a new international framework for peaceful nuclear power, and reject the nuclear weaponization that North Korea and Iran may be seeking.”

“We have to build new ladders of opportunity in our own societies that—even as we pursue new trade and investment that fuels growth across the Atlantic.”

“Our efforts against al-Qaeda are evolving.”

“If we lift our eyes, as President Kennedy called us to do, then we’ll recognize that our work is not yet done.”

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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