“Ich bin ein Berliner,” or “I am a Berliner,” is an infamous phrase recognized by millions of people across the globe. On June 26, 1963, John F. Kennedy delivered a speech to West Berliners regarding freedom and hope for the future. However, Kennedy’s speech affected a far greater number of people than just those of West Berlin. Throughout his speech, Kennedy continuously makes the claim that, “when one man is enslaved, we are all not free.” Through this, John F. Kennedy proposed the idea that we are all united – across countries, even continents – and that with unity, countries could put a stop to communism. Kennedy’s memorable speech, delivered from the balcony of the Rathaus Shöneberg in Berlin, Germany, was directed to more than just West Berliners; Kennedy’s audience included nations throughout the world.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact forces began supporting the growth of communism across countries in Europe, leading to the “Iron Wall” partition of Berlin. East Berlin became communist-controlled, while West Berlin remained free. In 1961, the Berlin Wall was erected, officially barricading the German capital of Berlin into two separate sections – the East and the West. Still, many citizens of East Berlin attempted to flee to the west to escape communism; Kennedy references this and argues for democracy when he declares, “…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.” Kennedy uses his rhetoric to encourage democracy amongst Berliners, as well as to shed light on the ineffectiveness of communism.
Kennedy’s tone throughout the speech was avid and inspirational, and encouraged free countries to stand together to fight the spread of communism. Kennedy communicated in a manner which evoked hope and motivation, as seen in Figure 1; Berliners shouted passionately in response to the speech.
"Ich bin ein Berliner." Perf. John F. Kennedy. 1963. YouTube. Web.
From the auditory aspect, Kennedy is successful in reaching out to diverse groups of people. Within his speech, John F. Kennedy pronounces numerous phrases in German to relate to Berliners; phrases such as “Ich bin ein Berliner,” and, “Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen,” helped to encourage strong emotions from the spectators. Kennedy inflects his voice to stress statements, such as, “Let them come to Berlin.” This phrase, intended for communist nations, stressed that anti-communistic America, and many other ally nations, would hold their ground on the issues in Berlin. Kennedy also asks Berliners to, “…lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall, to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.” This request, although directly stated to West Berliners, applied to countless people – “all mankind” – across the world.
Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech was not only memorable, but also extremely successful in reaching out to various groups of people. While mainly addressing Berliners, many ideas expressed within the speech could pertain to all anti-communistic countries. Kennedy, himself, suggests this when he declares that, “all free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin”; Kennedy claims that all free nations are allies in the fight against communism. The Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact forces are also addressed through the reiteration of the phrase, “Let them come to Berlin.” Overall, Kennedy’s passion and encouragement positively affected the successfulness of his speech, as well as allowed him to reach out to different people from several countries across the world.
Kennedy, John F. “Ich bin ein Berliner.” West Berlin, Germany. 26 June 1963.
"Cold War." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 3 Oct. 2010.
"YouTube - Franklin D. Roosevelt - Declaration of War." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 3 Oct. 2010.
"John F. Kennedy - Ich bin ein Berliner (“I am a ‘Berliner’”).” American Rhetoric. Web. Oct. 2010.