Tuesday, October 5, 2010

John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” Analysis

Americans have always learned about the splitting of Germany between the Allies (US, France, and England) and the Soviet Union. The Allies were given West Germany and the Soviet Union, East. The only problem with the Soviets having East Germany was that housed in this portion of the country was Germany's capital, Berlin. The Allies and the Soviets came to an agreement to also split the city in two. The Soviets used this to their power by cutting off all ground access to West Berlin, the only way to reach it was through the air. Life in East Berlin was horrible, people were forced to live lives they didn't want and there was nothing that they could do but take a risk and cross the border to West Berlin. The Soviets eventually realized this and decided to take action. On August 13, 1961 a wall was built, known as the Berlin Wall, which would change the dynamic of the people of Berlin and life as they knew it. Although around 5,000 people successfully climbed the wall and escaped to freedom, there were many people who became trapped in East Berlin. On June 26th, 1963 in front of Berlin's town hall JFK gave one of the most defining speeches of the Cold War.

At the beginning of the speech he gives a shout-out to both Germany's Chancellor and Berlin's Mayor for keeping the spirit and faith of having a democracy in Germany's near future. He continues with a confident tone in his voice throughout the speech. This speech was not only used as a way to threaten the Soviets but, instill confidence and unify the people of East Berlin. Kennedy reinforced his views on the problem at hand and by almost constantly repeating himself with the words "let them come to Berlin." By doing this, with snippets about the communist believers in between, Kennedy is able to use Berlin as an example to the world that communism is not the answer. Through telling communist followers to come to Berlin and witness first-hand the affects that communism can have on a country he is bringing a realization to the world that democracy compared to communism is a much better option. Kennedy reassured his audience (Fig. 1) that democracy wasn't perfect but was a much better upon saying 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." Kennedy not only reassured the German's by using America as an example, but connected with them by speaking to them in their own language.

Figure 1. John F. Kennedy gives his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in Rudolph Wilde Platz. 26 June 1963. Jfklibrary.com. 5 October 2010.

"Ich bin ein Berliner," the four simple, yet famous words that Kennedy used to convince a country that he had their backs. Through going out of his way and speaking to the people in their own language Kennedy was able to connect with the German's on a deeper level. Kennedy said two phrases in German throughout his brief speech, but he spoke German several times. He used his words to build his speech to a climax and then spoke in German causing great reactions from the crowd. An example of this was his use of the phrase "let them come to Berlin" which after repeating three times in English, he repeated it once more in German, and then once again in English. Through finally saying the German translation "Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen ", Kennedy was able to connect with the people of West Berlin. He was able to unite them as one and make them an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. With Kennedy's word of confidence and comfort the people of West Berlin were unstoppable. While giving this speech Kennedy was able to unify and reassure the people of Berliner that one day communism would be no more.

Kennedy's speech overall was very effective. He was able to not only instill confidence in the Germans that they would overcome and eventually have their own democracy, but he was able to instill fear in the communists. This speech was one of the turning points of the Cold War. Sadly almost five months later in November of 1963 Kennedy was assassinated. After his assassination the plaza in which he gave this world changing speech officially had its name changed from Rudolph Wilde Platz to John F. Kennedy Platz where the confidence and spirit of this great speech will forever live on.

Work Cited:

Kennedy, John F. "Ich bin ein Berliner." American Rhetoric. N.p., 26 June 1963. Web. 5 Oct. 2010.

Work Consulted:

"The Cold War in Berlin." Historical Reasources. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Mueseum, n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2010.