Kennedy said, in the struggle for freedom, we are all citizens of Berlin (Quote of the moment)


49 years ago, on June 26, 1962, in Berlin:

President Kennedy addresses Berlin citizens, 6-26-1962 (photographer unidentified)

President John F. Kennedy addressing a crowd in Berlin, Germany, June 26, 1962 - image from NARA and/or Kennedy Library

From the Smithsonian Magazine site:

June 26, 1963: “Ich bin ein Berliner”

In West Berlin, President John F. Kennedy delivers the famous speech in which he declares, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Meaning literally “I am a citizen of Berlin,” the statement shows U.S. solidarity with democratic West Berlin, surrounded by communist territory.

View a video of President Kennedy’s speech at American Rhetoric, Top 100 Speeches.

Audio of the famous line, from the National Archives:

Photos and complete audio, at The Sounds of History.com:

Text and transcript, and other materials, from the Kennedy Library and Museum:

Kennedy’s entire speech was good. It was well drafted and well delivered, taking advantage of the dramatic setting and the dramatic moment. John Kennedy well understood how to give a speech, too.

Below is most of the speech, nearly five minutes’ worth, from a YouTube file — another indication that schools need to open up their filters to allow at least some of the best YouTube material through:

Transcript, from the JFK Library:

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 leaving 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 everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and 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 decades.

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.”

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10 Responses to Kennedy said, in the struggle for freedom, we are all citizens of Berlin (Quote of the moment)

  1. [...] “Kennedy said we are all citizens of Berlin” [...]

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  2. thomas says:

    Interesting story. I was in the USAF, stationed at the NATO field serving the SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe) – Chievres AB, Belgium (now a US Army casserne), 1967 to 1969. I worked closely with Belgian, American and Dutch military members who staffed the airfield. I remember one Belgian Air Force SGT (meteorologist) named Franz. He said to me that the Belgians were pragmatic when it came to the so called “Cold War.” He said many learned both English and Russian to be prepared no matter which side won the cold war.

    It is clear to me that it was the Europeans/Russians and others who wanted the Berlin Wall to come down, and Ronald Reagan is not the one responsible for that. Not at all. Many right wing Americans want to think that he did all of that. That is a joke.

    The Russians/Germans/Eastern Europeans themselves ended the East/West paradigm. Not Reagan. Reagan was an empty suit and he does not deserve the credit the right wing wants to give hime.

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  3. Flakey says:

    htp has a strange world view. He seems to think the Soviets won the Cold War. Since by his own definitions all but about 10 countries in the world are now Communist. With one America party already “Hard left”. that number soon to be reduced further?

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  4. James Kessler says:

    The child wrote:
    Of course, this was the speech [Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech] that mattered. But then he was actually trying to accomplish something other than political theater and narcissistic self-indulgence.

    Yeah you might want to recall when you say Reagan was trying to accomplish something that he nearly bankrupted the United States in so doing, supported tyrants and mass murderers, and broke both US and international law more then once.

    You remember what you said about Democrats engaging in hero worship? Yeah..it’s nothing compared to the hero worship that you and your fellow Republicans engage in when it comes to Reagan.

    At least we can admit when our leaders make mistakes. Your side continously thinks that it’s leaders and especially it’s Presidents are infallible.

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  5. Ed Darrell says:

    Of course, this was the speech [Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech] that mattered. But then he was actually trying to accomplish something other than political theater and narcissistic self-indulgence.

    I think, compared to Kennedy, Reagan was a piker as a Cold Warrior, and a bit of a bumbler at that. Lots of good intentions, but not the bringer of peace, nor even bringer of the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

    Kennedy was the one who faced down the Soviets in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and prevented a nuclear war. In our touring of the Bush I, Johnson and Clinton libraries in the past week we had presentations on both the Cuban Missile Crisis and on the Cold War generally, from highly-qualified presenters including A&M’s CIA man in residence, James Olson. Those presentations reinforced my earlier learnings — I think history is quite clear that we were closer to nuclear war over the warheads in Cuba than ever before — I was surprised to learn that there were more than 100 nuclear warheads already in Cuba when Kennedy imposed the embargo on the island.

    Kennedy pushed Khrushchev farther than any other U.S. president pushed any other Soviet leader at any time, and Khrushchev backed down.

    In contrast, Reagan twice sent the Russians on red alert, once with his stupid soundcheck joke, and a second time when he ordered that NATA maneuvers be held off the coast of Norway, right over the major Soviet submarine passage. The Soviets were certain the maneuvers were cover for an attack. Reagan was shocked to find out the Soviets, and others, thought him so mad, and resolved then to work with the Soviets.

    I think Reagan deserves credit for his “Star Wars” ruse — but too many I’ve spoken to are unsure that Reagan understood it was impossible. The whole thing was Reagan’s invention, based on no demonstrated technology. But just as our own Department of Defense didn’t know whether Reagan was serious or crazy, neither did the Soviets.

    It was Mikhail Gorbachev who met with Reagan — part of Reagan’s “play nice” program — and made the determination that Reagan, though perhaps a bit off, was not crazy enough to launch a first strike attack, and so ordered the unilateral stand down of Soviet missiles. It was Gorbachev who told the Polish Communists they were on their own, that Russia would not back them, especially with military aid; it was Gorbachev who informed the East Germans that they were on their own, that the Soviets would not longer provide them military aid to suppress East Germans, leading directly to the opening of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the East German government.

    Reagan was, perhaps stupidly and comically, right on Star Wars — the Soviets couldn’t keep up. Thank God that the Soviet Union was led by a man with sense to see no reason to compete, and to see through Reagan’s mad act to see the U.S. would not attack (if it was an act).

    Kennedy had his flaws. Failing to stand up to the Soviets, failure to advance U.S. interests and peace during the Cold War, are not among them.

    This is one of the great speeches of the 20th century, perhaps one of the great speeches of all of history. Reagan’s speech was a great one, too, but it lacked the literary flair and the historical foundations Kennedy’s remarks were nestled in. Reagan’s speech would have been impossible without Kennedy’s.

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  6. James Kessler says:

    Htp writes:
    “…the Democratic Party of today is trying to turn us into another USSR.”

    Oh you mean like the Republicans are trying to turn us into another Nazi Germany or another Italy under Mussolini?

    Yeah, Htp, better mind your mouth you ignorant jack[wagon].

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  7. thomas says:

    “with the color of ideology” s/b – without the color of ideology.

    [Fixed. The Management]

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  8. thomas says:

    And I would say this to you: who do you think you are? Are you channeling Paul Lynde when you write “remember Vietnam deary (sic)”? I served in Vietnam. I cannot abide fools who write idiotic comments and think no one will call them on their disingenuousness or their outright fabrications and rewriting of history. You are one of the know-nothing Teabagging foolish people who think because they write “Hard Left” in caps it means something. It is meaningless. Many of us know history because we lived it. Many others know the truth because they studed and researched without the color of ideology. I cannot tolerate such nonsense. I cannot allow foolish assertions and ideological fabrications to deny the greatness of a man like John F. Kennedy. Damn.

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  9. thomas says:

    What a vicious and sick response to a story about an American president who is universally loved and admired and who the world sees as the epitome of what is possible in American leaders. It is asinine to allege that “…the Democratic Party of today is trying to turn us into another USSR.” Asinine. I was a young American when JFK was elected. Soon after, I was drafted – I chose to enlist in the USAF and served honorably. I was stationed at McGuire AFB, NJ when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated while running for president. I stood outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC for hours, with another Airman and his wife, to pay my respects to the Senator from NY.

    And you have the gall to post this snide, snarky BS about a man who faced down the Russians/Communists (The Cuban Missile Crisis) and you accuse Democrats of want the US to “turn” Communist. Your words are beyond foolish. They are nonsense.

    I’ll tell you one more thing. I served at NATO HDQT’s in Belgium in 1968 through 1970. Camelot was real. The Europeans had a begrudging respect for the US at the time, in large part due to the Democratic presidents, Kennedy and Johnson, who moved this nation to the left in a wonderful and constructive way.

    You have no clue. You remind me of Sarah Palin. Pontificating and blabbering on using hyperbole and BS exaggerations and assuming people will be impressed with the craziness flowing out of your mouth (Newtie G is the same kind of know-nothing monster). You do not know what you are talking about.

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  10. htp says:

    Of course, this was the speech that mattered. But then he was actually trying to accomplish something other than political theater and narcissistic self-indulgence. Boy, did he ever accomplish something.
    15 years after JFK’s speech thing had not change, in fact things were worse (remember Vietnam, deary?). 15 years after that speech and the USSR was gone. How we could use him now.

    Seriously, 2 years after JFK made that speech, the New Left totally co-opted the Democrat Party, or rather, the Hard Left (ah, those would be Communists) finished the job they had started in the 1920′s, If you do not think that the Left, through the Democrat Party, did everything they could to hamper America in the Cold War you are a fool. It is really hard to say what JFK was up to here (the drug use was getting pretty serious by this point), but as a “Cold Warrior” he was a complete disaster. His screwing around allowed the old Wallace faction and the “New Left” to take over. What a catastrophe that was (and is) for the Republic.

    Where you even alive during the Cuba Missile Crisis or the Bay of Pigs? You sure do not act like it. Khrushchev certainly had his number. Thank goodness that there we still a few patriots left in the Democrat Party while he was in office. (not that LBJ was any better, in fact he was worse.) Soon these patriots would debark from the Party.

    Such a sucker for demagoguery and media manipulation, but then you are a Democrat.

    In time, JFK will be shown for the the amateurish poser that he was.
    (Though it is true that he did not here call himself a jelly doughnut)

    It is comic that you post this, for the Democrat Party of today is trying to turn us into another USSR. You are tethered to reality by the thinnest of strings. Hint: Camelot was a lie. Its been 40 years and yet you still have not figured that out?

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