Monday, 27 September 2010

B ist für Berlin - Ich bin ein Berliner

There are few things as moving and inspirational as a well written speech and even more so a well delivered speech. It makes you feel like…well… in a few simple words: Yes we can! That is the power of a great speech. Few speeches come close, as this one does. If you listen to what is considered as one of Kennedy’s best speeches – it’s amazing how still today – it’s completely relevant. That is the power of a great speech…

On 26 June 1963 JFK delivered his Ich bin ein Berliner speech, showing American support for West Berlin after the wall had been built, dividing the communist east and the “free world”west.



The speech reads:

“Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis Romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is 'Ich bin ein Berliner!'... All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner!'… 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.”

Kennedy concluded, “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’”


JFK's phonetic transcription of the German and Latin phrases in the speech.Image from the JFK Presidential Library & Museum

[There is the misconception about the jam doughnut though, also known as a Berliner…The indefinite article ein is omitted when speaking of an individual's profession or residence but is necessary when speaking in a figurative sense as Kennedy did. Since the president was not literally from Berlin but only declaring his solidarity with its citizens, ‘Ich bin Berliner’ would not have been correct.” via Wiki]

The famous Rathaus Schöneberg shall have to be added to the list of important things to see and do. And that is that. Great speech might I add.

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