Friday, June 26, 2009

Let Them Come To Berlin!

Realizing that some Really Important Things are currently happening, I just wanted to take a minute to share something that some may not realize is also on today's historical calendar.

Today is the 46th anniversary of President Kennedy's historic speech at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate - the "Ich Bin Ein Berliner" speech. Historic because he broke ground, in terms of U.S. Presidents going there to speak against communism specifically, and tyranny in general. Besides him, to my knowledge Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan all spoke there as well. I never saw the first two, but I remember Reagan's well ("Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!").

This speech - Kennedy's - is one of my favorite speeches by a U.S. President.

Not only am I posting the video of the speech, but I am also including the text. Before you view the video, go to the bottom of the blog and pause the music.

Read the speech. This is one text that, as far as I'm concerned, means as much now as it did back then. Granted - the circumstances we are dealing with today worldwide are different on the surface, but the plight of oppressed people is still the same.

Just look at the Iranian people - they are willing to die for their freedom. Many have.

Are we willing to do the same to keep ours?

I am proud to come to this city as the guest of your
distinguished Mayor,
who has symbolized throughout the world the fighting
spirit of West Berlin. And
I am proud to visit the Federal Republic with
your distinguished Chancellor who
for so many years has committed Germany to
democracy and freedom and progress, and to come here in the company of my fellow
American, General Clay, who has been in this city during its great moments of
crisis and will come again if ever needed.

Two thousand years ago the
proudest boast was "civis Romanus sum." Today,
in the world of freedom, the
proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner."

I appreciate my interpreter
translating my German!

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.
Let them come to Berlin. 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.

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have
never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from
us. I want to say, on behalf of my countrymen, who live many miles
away on the
other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you, that
they take the
greatest pride that they have been able to share with you,
even from a distance,
the story of the last 18 years. I know of no town, no
city, that has been
besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality
and the force, and the
hope and the determination of the city of West
Berlin. While the wall is the
most obvious and vivid demonstration of the
failures of the Communist system,
for all the world to see, we take no
satisfaction in it, for it is, as your
Mayor has said, an offense not only
against history but an offense against
humanity, separating families,
dividing husbands and wives and brothers and
sisters, and dividing a people
who wish to be joined together.

What is true of this city is true of
Germany--real, lasting peace in Europe
can never be assured as long as one
German out of four is denied the elementary
right of free men, and that is
to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace and
good faith, this generation
of Germans has earned the right to be free,
including the right to unite
their families and their nation in lasting peace,
with good will to all
people. You live in a defended island of freedom, but your
life is part of
the main. So let me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond
the dangers
of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of
this city
of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom
beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves
ourselves to all mankind.

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is
enslaved, all are not free.
When all are free, then we can look forward to
that day when this city will be
joined as one and this country and this
great Continent of Europe in a peaceful
and hopeful globe. When that day
finally comes, as it will, the people of West
Berlin can take sober
satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines
for almost two

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin,
therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein


Karen Brook Westhaver said...

This speech was so eloquent, and delivered with passion, clarity, and charismatic, sincere conviction. So good to hear and read the text again; especially in the context of current events including a war which has been going on now longer than WWII for which more people continue to sign their names on the dotted line in military enlistment and re-enlistment, as well as the escalating tensions and dangerous saber-rattling in other highly unstable parts of the world. I hope our "leaders" have similarly remembered this anniversary and thought to pull out President Kennedy's speech again. Thank you, Walt, for this marvelous post along with the entire speech. We need more of this courage to lead from our present leaders. I have to note, though, that one thing which endeared President Kennedy with the German people was that in his desire to identify with the people of Berlin, to say that he is a citizen of Berlin (within that great metaphor of freedom), his German actually translated as "I am a donut" :-) Countless numbers of small plastic donuts were made in Germany as warm and delightful souvenirs of that time. Courage, conviction, strength and compassion ladled out with such sincerity it also included some of the President's humanity in that small error helped him to be warmly embraced and for which he continues to be much loved by Germans even today.

Walt Trachim said...

I believe what he should have said (if I remember my high school German correctly) is "Ich Bin Berliner" instead of "Ich Bin Ein Berliner".

A "berliner" is a danish-like pastry filled with jelly or jam - where they whole "I am a jelly doughnut" thing came from. I believe they are Austrian in origin rather than German, but they were (and continue to be) popular in that part of the world.

Supposedly they are quite tasty, but heavy like a brick :)

The Happy Medic said...

Walt, great post indeed! Too often things like this get buried in the news of the now. Thanks for bringing it back up.