“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!’ … 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!'”
U.S. President John F. Kennedy in West Berlin — June 26 1963
The speech is considered one of Kennedy’s best, both a notable moment of the Cold War and a high point of the New Frontier. It was a great morale boost for West Berliners, who lived in an enclave deep inside East Germany and feared a possible East German occupation. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
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Speaking from a platform erected on the steps of Rathaus Schöneberg for an audience of West Berliners, Kennedy said:
“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!'” [Wikipedia]
Peacemaker or aggressor?
The Soviets were left to wonder: Was he now Kennedy the peacemaker or Kennedy the aggressor?
At any rate, treaty talks went ahead. And on July 26 Kennedy addressed the nation from the White House. Negotiations on a limited treaty had been successfully concluded in Moscow the day before.
The treaty prohibited all nuclear testing in the atmosphere, space, and underwater. Yesterday, Kennedy declared, a shaft of light cut into the darkness.
The pact was signed by American, British, and Soviet representatives on August 5. The Senate ratified it on September 23, and Kennedy signed it on October 7. Less than two months later he would be assassinated.
In 1989 free travel finally flowed between East and West Berlin. The wall came down. A concrete section was taken to the Kennedy Library in Boston and placed on public display.
And Kennedy’s words at the wall—like Ronald Reagan’s equally impassioned and provocative plea to “tear down this wall” 24 years later—live on far past the Cold War that provoked them. [American Heritage]
Kennedy – I am a Berliner – Ich Bin Ein Berliner
Remembering: “Ich bin ein Berliner” — 26 June 1963