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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Barack Obama’s Foreign Mission: Hope and Cautions

Barack Obama’s Foreign Mission: Hope and Cautions

Obama Sets Off on His Foreign Tour

Senator Obama’s overseas trip is scheduled to have him make visits to the Middle East, Germany, France and England. His trip began covered by a shroud of secrecy, which advisers said was due to security concerns set forth by the Secret Service. A motorcade left Sen. Obama’s home in Chicago’s Hyde Park/Kenwood neighborhood at 11:11 a.m (local time) on Thursday morning, heading for Chicago’s Midway Airport. From Midway, a Gulfstream III executive jet took off for Washington’s Reagan National Airport carrying Obama, the senior Obama spokesperson, two reporters and eight Secret Service Agents.

About 85 minutes later, the plane landed at Reagan, and Obama’s motorcade traveled from there to Andrews Air Force Base. At Andrews, Obama entered an aircraft that had no markings, with the exception of an American flag on the tail. Mark Lippert, a foreign policy advisor to Obama in his Washington office, Senators Jack Reed and Chuck Hagel were on the plane when it took off from Andrews Air Force Base shortly after 3 p.m. (ET). No reporters accompanied him on the plane to Afghanistan.

Obama at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan

Obama Sets Off on His Foreign Mission

Obama Arrives in Afghanistan

Senator Barack Obama made a secret stop in Kuwait, visiting with U.S. servicemen there, and then flew on to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he arrived early Saturday morning. He would open his first overseas trip as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee by meeting with American military commanders there (and later in Iraq) to receive an on-the-ground assessment of military operations in the two major U.S. war zones.

Mr. Obama touched down in Kabul at 3:15 a.m. Eastern time, according to a pool report released by his aides. In addition to attending briefings with military leaders, he hoped to meet with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan before flying to Iraq later in the weekend. His advisers said that Mr. Obama had chosen to begin his trip in Afghanistan because he believes that the region is among the most important foreign policy challenges facing the United States.

It is the first trip to Afghanistan for Mr. Obama, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Obama has said he wants to send two additional U.S. combat brigades, about 7,000 troops, to Afghanistan. He has advocated reducing the U.S. force in Iraq so that troops can be redeployed to Afghanistan to quell the threat from al-Qaeda operatives and their supporters in the resurgent Taliban movement.

Obama has also accused his Republican opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain, of waffling aboout whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, criticizing the decorated Vietnam war veteran for voting to go to war in Iraq and saying the loss of focus on the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan has been a “grave mistake.”

Security in the Afghan capital was noticeably tighter Saturday, but Obama’s visit was little known and little remarked upon in the streets of the city.

Senator Obama’s Trip to Afghanistan

Europe Pins Its Hopes on Obama

In some ways, Obama’s high-profile foreign mission has all the trappings of a major rock-star tour. Public opinion polls in Europe have continued to show that Obama is by far the candidate that most Europeans would like to see succeed George W. Bush in the November elections. With his visit, the presumptive Democratic nominee is recreating the kind of public whirlwind that he enjoyed at the height of the Democratic primaries, only now it’s on a grand global scale. Some European observers are describing Obama as Europe’s greatest hope.

Obama: Europe’s Greatest Hope

This Posting Will Be Updated With Photographs and Video Each Day During Obama’s Foreign Tour.

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