On the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s speech of solidarity to Berliners, President Obama spoke at on the east side of Berlin's famous Brandenburg Gate to call for the simultaneous reduction of U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads. In his speech, Obama reiterated the reality of many post-Cold War challenges and but emphasized the importance of collaboration.
“If we lift our eyes, as President Kennedy called us to do, then we’ll recognize that our work is not yet done, Obama said," for we are not only citizens of America or Germany – we are also citizens of the world.”
Brandenburg Gate has served at the backdrop for several U.S. presidents at key moments in history. Here are some speeches from presidents past.
June 26, 1963
Two years after the construction of the Berlin Wall, President John F. Kennedy declared allegiance with West Berlin from the west side of Brandenburg Gate, though Soviets cloaked the gate in red banners to prevent a view into East Germany. Later, Kennedy ended an address in German to a roaring crowd, “As a free man, I take pride in the words, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”
June 12, 1987
After 26 years of living in the shadow of the “Iron Curtain,” West Berliners gathered at the gate to hear President Ronald Reagan speak on the 750th anniversary of Berlin. In a now-iconic address to General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, President Reagan listed his demands to an elated crowd, “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
July 12, 1994
In a visit with Chancellor Helmut Kohl of a four-year-old reunited Germany, President Bill Clinton spoke for post-Cold War peace at the gate. His speech promised partnership between the U.S. and Germany and largely celebrated a restoration of normalcy. Emulating Kennedy’s technique, Clinton phrased the apex of his speech in German. “Nothing will stop us. All things are possible,” he said. “‘Nichts wird uns aufhalten. Alles ist moeglich. Berlin is frei.’ Berlin is free.”
July 24, 2008
Then-Sen. Obama delivered a speech near the Brandenburg Gate to an enormous crowd of approximately 200,000. Though he had not even secured the presidency, Berliners weary of President George W. Bush gathered to hear him speak. After listing a number of global ailments, Obama declared “No one nation, no matter how large or how powerful, can defeat such challenges alone.”