Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Ich bin ein Berliner" Analysis

"Ich bin ein Berliner," President John F. Kennedy proudly boasts in that famous town divided by an even more infamous wall. I am a Berliner. With those simple words he publicly opened a conflict between the free and communist world that would last for years to come. An eager population greets Kennedy as he speaks on an island of the capitalist world. Boosting the pride and confidence of the German people, President Kennedy appeals to the population of West Berlin by using tactics to both evoke patriotism and denounce communism.

Kennedy knew that this would be a deciding factor in the political systems of the world, and that this speech was also a chance to show the world the failures of communism and successes of democracy. His language is all encompassing and contains elements of something that most, if not all, people can relate to: patriotism. An early example of this in Kennedy’s speech was “Two thousand years ago -- 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.’” The crowd roared at this comment, as seen in figure one, showing the world that Berlin was ready for change ready to embrace democracy. Kennedy’s carefully picked words and the slow deliberate tone inspired patriotism from the audience. He knew that by boosting the morale and by complementing the citizens of West Berlin, that they would be more open to listen to what he had to say later on. “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.” was another line that surely provided confidence to the citizens and reminded them that the rest of the world had their eyes on the “defended island of freedom.” Appealing to what the citizens hoped that they could be, Kennedy gave hope of a free and undivided Germany.
The cheering population of West Berlin at Kennedy's speech. 1963. John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Web. 5 Oct. 2010.

Furthermore, perhaps a more important factor in the German pride in Kennedy’s speech was his delivery and overall presentation. He simply appealed to what the population of Berlin wanted to hear. For instance, he stated that “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect. But we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in -- to prevent them from leaving us.” This humor--almost dark in a way--provided a way to relate with the audience that Kennedy was speaking to by showing them that he was thinking some of the same things that they were at the time. How he said it, with a smile on his face and with a bit of a chuckle, brought about the anti-communistic feelings that the West Berliners were feeling. Seemingly he accomplished to relate to the Germans, because their reaction was ecstatic. Another tool that Kennedy used was repetition. He used the statement “Let them come to Berlin,” four times. With this he boosted the morale of the Germans and showed them that he was, in a way, proud of their accomplishments. He showed them that even in the face of doubt and a possibility of a takeover, they could remain strong. Denouncing the political system of communism also happened in that repetition, because each example bashed an aspect of a communistic society. With this, Kennedy gains seemingly unanimous support from his audience.

Accordingly, Kennedy accomplished his goals through the power of his rhetorical skills. He appealed to the population of West Berlin, revived confidence and patriotism in a democratic Germany, and denounced the communist system that surrounded the city. Kennedy's words inspired millions when he said that he was a Berliner. Showing the power of words and delivery, Kennedy greatly affected the Cold War and how the world is today.

Work Cited

Kennedy, John Fitzgerald. "Ich bin ein Berliner." Rathaus Schöneberg, West Berlin. 26 June 1963. American Rhetoric. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.

Work Consulted

"The Cold War in Berlin." John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2010.