Obama’s Berlin Speech: This is the Moment to Stand as One

Obama’s Berlin Speech: This is the Moment to Stand as One

Obama Begins His European Tour in Berlin

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama arrived in Berlin on Thursday and met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, kicking off the European leg of his overseas trip amid high expectations. Later on Thursday, Obama met with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at his office in the Foreign Ministry.

Obama’s motorcade drew cheers from groups of people that lined his route from the government building to his hotel. As he got out of his car, one man yelled out in English, Yes we can!, the senator’s campaign refrain. The German capital is the first stop on a whirlwind tour that will take the presumptive Democratic nominee to Germany, France and Britain.

Berliners eagerly looked forward to Obama’s speech in front of the Tiergarten’s 226-foot high Victory Column. The speech has symbolic value, because several U.S. presidents, including John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, made significant addresses in Berlin.

Former German President Richard von Weizsaecker said that Obama’s appearance could help pave the way for a new trans-Atlantic relationship. “Kennedy said the famous sentence, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner,‘” von Weizsaecker told The Bild newspaper. “Obama could send the Berlin signal: America is counting on Europe for its future.”

We have long believed that nobody in America is interested in our continent any more,” von Weizsaecker added. “ The appearance and the speech of Barack Obama are evidence that this preconception is false.”

Obama Begins His European Trip in Berlin

Obama’s Berlin Speech: This is the Moment to Stand as One

Obama Speaks at Berlin’s Victory Column

Obama’s spoke to a huge crowd, estimated to have been over 200,000 persons, in front of the Siegessäule (Victory Column) monument, or “Goldelse” (“Goldlizzie”), as Berliners affectionately call it, because of the golden statue of the goddess of victory that crowns the monument. Built in the second half of the 19th century to commemorate Prussian victories against the French, the Danes and Austria, over the years the column has been a backdrop for a number of mass events.

The German media could barely contain its excitement. “Germany meets the Superstar” read the front page of the weekly Der Spiegel in reference to a popular German television show, while the tabloid Bild called Obama “Berlin’s New Kennedy!” and gushed: “It’s like 1963,” describing the presidential candidate as “just as young, sexy and charismatic” as John F. Kennedy.

Although the Kennedy name is almost always referred to whenever Obama is mentioned in the German media, there is more to his popularity. The cover of the current issue of Zitty, a local Berlin magazine, shows a photo of Barack Obama accompanied by the headline: “I’m Black and That’s a Good Thing“, a reference to Berlin’s openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit, who strongly supported Obama’s request to speak at the Brandenburg Gate, and who had once publicly announced: “I’m gay and that’s a good thing.” Surprising as that headline may be, it partly explains why Obama was likely to receive the warmest welcome given to any senior American politician in Berlin since Kennedy visited in 1963 and made his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.

For many Germans, Obama is the embodiment of the American dream and the ideal of a land of opportunity where everyone can make it to the top, regardless of race or social background. At a moment when anti-American sentiments have reached unprecedented heights in Germany, a 2007 study by the Pew Research Center found that only 30% of all Germans hold a positive view of the United States, Obama is seen by many Germans as a symbol of hope and change for the good.

The live video of Obama’s entire speech is presented below:

Obama’s Berlin Speech: This is the Moment to Stand as One

Obama’s Berlin Speech: This is the Moment to Stand as One

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2 Responses to “Obama’s Berlin Speech: This is the Moment to Stand as One”

  1. Thinking Voter Says:

    For some reason, everyone neglects to mention that Obama spoke at a Free Concert.

    Maybe all those thousands of young Germans turned up for the two bands that were playing instead of coming to hear a speach in english.

    Nah, Obama’s charisma is so powerful it transcends language.

    More Kool Aid anyone?

  2. Berlin blog Says:

    I’m with you on that one – everyone neglects to mention that Obama spoke at a Free Concert.

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