During the fall and summer of 1963, John F. Kennedy was on a mission to spread peace and good will across the world. He was in talks with the Soviet Union’s leader, Nikita Khrushchev, about a nuclear testing ban. This ban would later become a pivotal step in ending the cold war. In June 1963 he embarked on a five stop tour of several European countries. His first stop was in Berlin, Germany, which for some time prior to 1963 had been a battle ground in the seemingly never ending cold war. One of the first things Kennedy saw upon arrival in Berlin was the Berlin Wall. Something changed in Kennedy’s mind after seeing the wall, a completely new speech formed in his head than he had previously planned. Kennedy asked his translator on the way to the city square to translate a few phrases for him which Kennedy wrote down on a note card (see Figure one). One of these phrases "Ich Bin Ein Berliner", became the war cry of this speech and the title. East and West Berlin, America, and the Soviet Union were all listening intently to Kennedy's words. n his speech, Kennedy's seeming lack of awareness regarding audience and his word choice, could have jeopardized any hopes in coming to an agreement with the Soviet Union on a nuclear testing ban.Figure 1 “Ich Bin Ein Berliner: Note Card.” Photograph. 26 June 1963. JFK Library. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.
From the start of the speech, Kennedy shows a great deal of empathy to the city of Berlin. Kennedy says “I am proud to come to this city as the guest of your distinguished Mayor, who has symbolized throughout the world the fighting spirit of West Berlin. And I am proud -- And I am proud to visit the Federal Republic” His praise of the mayor and the city, helps him gather the attention of his audience. However, as the speech continues on, Kennedy starts to move away from praising the city to taking a strong anti-communism stance. “And there are some who say, in Europe and elsewhere, we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin.” Kennedy is implying that there is no way to work with the communists yet, he is in the midst of working out a nuclear testing ban. Perhaps, in the heat of the moment, Kennedy neglected to consider his audience. “And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin. ” His word choice makes him come off as aggressive. The repeating chant of “Let them come to Berlin” it taunting the communists to take action against democracy and the quest of freedom.
Kennedy's tone throughout the speech serves as double-edged sword. One edge unites the citizens of Berlin and gets them to be on his side. “I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope, and the determination of the city of West Berlin.” His tone implies a great deal of respect for the city and its people. The other edge, is a strong, bold, disapproval of the communist system. “While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system -- for all the world to see” He takes what the communists thought as an achievement and chalks it up to a mere failure. Kennedy is also sending the message to the Soviet Union that he is not only a peace maker, he can also be an aggressor.
Kennedy manages to both unite the citizens of Berlin and send a message to the communists. He enunciates words and phrases like “Freedom”, “Communism”, and “Let them come to Berlin”. He allows his voice to become powerful and strong. He ends the speech with the phrase “And, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner.'” A phrase that translates into “I am with the citizens of Berlin.” The final phrase captures both his stance against communism and his empathy for the citizens of Berlin.
Kennedy, John F. "Ich bin ein Berliner". American Rhetoric. 23 June, 1963. Web. 3 Oct. 2010.