Obama to return to Berlin to deliver speech at Brandenburg Gate

Nearly five years after delivering a campaign speech to a massive crowd in Berlin,

on July 24, 2008 shows Barack Obama, then US Democratic presidential hopeful, waving to the crowd after making a speech in front of the Victory Column in Berlin. US President Barack Obama will visit Berlin in June 2013 for wide-ranging talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel, a German government spokesman said on May 10, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Paul J. RichardsPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images Then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in Berlin on July 24, 2008.  (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama will return to Germany's capital this month to deliver a speech at the historic Brandenburg Gate.

Obama's return to Berlin will draw comparisons to his visit in July 2008, when more than 200,000 people came to hear the then-Democratic presidential nominee speak at the Victory Column, a little more than a mile away. Obama's 2008 Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), used footage of the speech to mock Obama as a "celebrity" akin to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.

This time, Obama will visit Germany not as a celebrity candidate but as a second-term president who has built an important alliance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Obama plans to visit Berlin following a G-8 summit in Northern Ireland and will address the German people from the Brandenburg Gate on June 19.

"President Obama will speak about the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Germany, the vital importance of the transatlantic alliance, and the values that bind us together," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

In 2008, a Merkel spokesman said it was "odd" for Obama to deliver a public address there, noting that the chancellor had "little sympathy for the Brandenburg Gate being used for electioneering." Yet, five years and two U.S. presidential campaigns later, Obama is returning to Brandenburg Gate at Merkel's invitation.

Obama will not be the first U.S. president to deliver a major address from Brandenburg Gate, a neoclassical arch located near the site of the Berlin Wall.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan gave a speech there calling on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” And President Bill Clinton spoke there in 1994, saying, “We stand together where Europe’s heart was cut in half and we celebrate unity.”

President John F. Kennedy gave his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in 1963 outside the Rathaus Schöneberg, but he did visit the gate.

 

 

Philip Rucker is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where he has reported since 2005.

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