Friday, July 25, 2008

Ich bin ein Berliner!

"The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA, speaking in Berlin.

Presidents are great ones for making speeches in Berlin. You probably don't remember John F. Kennedy, do you? He had such a smart wife. She knew languages and people. But she was on the quiet side. Upper crust. Back then, if a woman used a family name as a middle name they were upper crust. Later on, they were feminists. But JFK made a great speech in Berlin one time. "Ich bin ein Berliner," he said.

Kennedy is remembered for this line. It was actually a gaff of sorts. "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!" Apparently after the show, Jacqueline corrected Jack's grammar, telling him that he had actually told the crowd, "I am a jelly donut." The crowd was forgiving and the speech went off famously.

Then there was the speech that Ronald Reagan made. That was significant.

When I was a little girl, the great communist horror was symbolized by a great wall in Berlin that symbolized oppression and lack of free speech, movement, and commerce.

"Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," said Reagan in 1987. And within a short while really, gates were opened and the wall came down. People took pieces of that wall and gave them as souvenirs.

Even Bill Clinton made a speech in Berlin, where he tried his hand at simple German. "Berlin ist frei" ("Berlin is free"), he said, in July of 1994.

So you have added your voice to a great crowd of witnesses to the importance of . . . what? Our relationship to Germany? Maybe. Or maybe to just to the power of language and the fine way words can go together. I'm glad your voice resonates so well.



Anne G G said...

They sure seem to love him over there. Do you think to be a really great president, being a good orator is a prerequisite?

(Certainly, being a good orator alone doesn't make you a great president.)

Say, when are these guys going to choose their VPs?

brd said...

I don't think you have to be a great orator to be a great president. I do think that history remembers the presidents who were also great orators more fondly. Certainly the Gettyburg address has netted many Lincoln fans. Everyone loves a quotable quote, don't you think?

brd said...

P.S. Hillary for Vice President!!!!

cadh 8 said...

I think that if you are a good orator you can actually be a really bad president and no one will notice.

cadh 8 said...

PS, on election day if the Democrats win I think I will simply mail my bank card to Washington so they can pilfer my account at will. If the Republicans win, I will send my credit card instead, since they take the people's money under the guise that they will be giving it back. Or they give it back, only they do so on credit, which we are the ones who will be paying off with interest later. But as of now that is my plan, just to save tax dollars by making the whole thing easier for them.

Silly presidental candidates, tricks are for kids. And politicians, PACS, lawyers, special intrests, unions, etc etc etc.

brd said...

cadh8, I think you have a winning idea there. According to the government's own accounting it takes $10 Billion to run the IRS. So with your plan in action we automatically save the US 10 billion dollars.

How would you like to become Secretary of the Treasury?