Page 2 of 2   <      

Obama Says Walls Must Come Down

A massive crowd gathered to hear Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama speak in Berlin, Germany. Obama's speech was the centerpiece of a fast-paced tour through Europe designed to reassure skeptical voters back home.Video by AP

The gigantic media horde accompanying Obama was stuffed onto risers overlooking the stage, along with television personalities and prominent journalists from countries around Europe. An army of technicians and their satellite trucks completed the media contingent.

Since the fall of communism, the United States and Europe have drifted apart, Obama said, offering criticism of both to encourage a renewed partnership. At times, he said, "our actions around the world have not always lived up to our best intentions." Europe, he said, mistakenly believes that America is a cause of what has gone wrong in the world rather than a force to make it right.

"No doubt there will be differences in the future," he said. "But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more -- not less."

Obama touched only briefly on Iraq, the issue that has most separated Europe from the United States, saying, "This is the moment when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close."

He said Europe and the United States must stand together against Iran and its nuclear ambitions and he pleaded for help on Afghanistan, which earlier in his overseas tour he called the central front in the fight against terrorism.

"America cannot do this alone," he said. "The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met with Obama shortly after his arrival on Thursday morning, is resisting sending more German troops to Afghanistan.

No country, Obama said, can escape the dangers of the 21st century, and no country can defeat them alone. "None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them," he said. "Yet, in the absence of Soviet tanks and a terrible wall, it has become easy to forget this truth."

The fall of the Berlin Wall, he said, gave rise to new dangers that are not contained within borders or by oceans, noting that the Sept. 11 terrorists plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Karachi, Pakistan. Cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are helping to melt the polar ice caps, he said.

Many of those who came to hear Obama, not surprisingly, expressed their enthusiasm for him and what he represents.

Claus and Silke Riedel came with their 2-year-old son, Daniel -- all wearing homemade red T-shirts that read: "Vote Obama."

"The United States' reputation has suffered greatly through Bush," Claus Riedel said. "That could change dramatically with Obama, and we hope it will."

But Francesco Consiacio, 33, a financial adviser from Italy who is spending a year in Berlin, wondered how Obama's speech would be received in the United States. "It was a very European speech. The way he spoke about Islam, atomic weapons -- especially about atomic weapons -- it played to a European mentality. I wonder if it will sound somewhat strange to the American audience."

Obama noted in his speech that he did not look like past U.S. political leaders who have spoken in Berlin, and some people there were struck by how different his style was from that of their own leaders.

"I thought it was very American in the sense that he spoke in such an emotional way," said Lisa Rogge, 19, a student. "No German would have spoken that way. But that's not criticism of Obama -- it was good that he was emotional."

<       2

© 2008 The Washington Post Company