"I Am a Berliner"
West Berlin Germany, June 24, 1963
John F. Kennedy
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 proudand I am proud to visit the Federal
Republic which your distinguished chancellor who for so many years
has committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress and
to come here in the company of my fellow American, General Clay,
whowho has been in this city during its great moments of crisis
and will come again if ever needed.
Two thousand years agotwo thousand years ago the proudest boast was, "Civis Romanus sum." Today, in the world of freedom the proudest boast is, "Ich bin ein Berliner." I appreciate my interpreter translating my German.
There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the communist world. Let them come to Berlin! There are some who saythere are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin! And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere, "We can work with the communists." Let them come to Berlin! And there are even a few who say that it's true that communism is an evil system but it permits us to make economic progress, Lasst sie nach Belin en kommen! Let them come to Berlin!
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.
I want to say on behalf of my countrymen who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic who are far distant from you that they take the greatest pride that they have been able to share with you even from a distance the story of the last eighteen years. I know of no town, no city that has been besieged for eighteen years that still lives with the vitality and the force and the hope and the determination of the city of West Berlin.
While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the communist system for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it for it is, as your mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity-separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters and dividing a people who wish to be joined together. What is true of this city, is true of Germany. Real lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In eighteen years of peace and good faith this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace with good will to all people.
You live in a defended island of freedom but your life is part
of the main. So let me ask you as I close 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,
freedom is indivisible and when one man is enslaved, all are not
fee. When all are free then we look and look forward to that day
when this city will be joined as one, and this country and this
great continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful glow. When
that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin
can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were the front
lines for almost two decades.
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."