Obama at the Brandenburg Gate…

Fifty years after President John F. Kennedy’s iconic speech in Germany, President Obama is speaking to Germans, in a unified Germany, at Brandenburg Gate.

He noted that he’s proud to return to Berlin as president and that “Angela [Merkel] and I don’t look like previous German and American leaders…”

POTUS  in Germany

Image: CCO/Creative Commons

Times have changed; Reagan and JFK, due to the previous divided status of the city, would not have been able to speak at this same location.

He said, “No wall can stand against yearning for freedom.” JFK’s pledge of solidarity echoes through the ages. We remember the East German heroes on June 17th – when the wall finally came tumbling down. German heroes decided their fate when they asked, “Will we live free or in chains?”

Open societies respect the individual and free will. “As Americans we believe that all men are created equal.”

Complacency is not the character of great nations. “We are not truly safe as long as nuclear weapons exist.”

Some of my favourite lines:

“We are more free when all can pursue their own happiness.”
“We have to have economies that are working for all people, not just those at the very top.”
“We cannot dictate the pace of change in places like the Arab world.”

In renewing his call to reduce nuclear weapons, the POTUS noted steps that can be taken to create a world with peace with justice. He also talked about tackling climate change “before it is too late.” Social change was discussed; reducing poverty, achieving the first AIDS-free generation “if we feel a sense of urgency”, and creating ties with trade, not just aid.

In closing, President Obama spoke about terrorism, tightly controlling the use of drones, protecting privacy and balancing it with the need for security and he renewed a call to close the facility at Guantanamo.

“We must accept the challenge that all of us in democratic governments face: to listen to those who disagree with us…and remember that government exists to serve the individual, and not the other way around.”

{End of quick news bite!}