The crowded auditorium at a U.S. Army barracks here began to reverberate with a rhythmic refrain often heard in halls an ocean away as a charismatic civil rights leader hit his stride.
"We came to the track here in 1936 and we're running even further now," he bellowed, in an allusion to Jesse Owens' four gold-medal victories at the Berlin Olympics. "If you don't run you are guaranteed to lose, so you got to run, from Berlin to Buffalo, from the outhouse to the White House."
In a hallowed ritual observed by most presidential candidates, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson brought his political ambitions here today before an approving throng of U.S. soldiers as he continued a European tour to promote voter registration and, as he put it, "learn about peace and security options."
For those who take his hints about a presidential bid seriously, Jackson's inexperience in foreign affairs stands out as one of his most evident weaknesses.
Following stops in London and the Netherlands--where he tripped on royal protocol--Jackson today paid tribute to that potent political shrine, the Berlin Wall. He described it as "a monument to the failure of communications, which has caused so much pain, even separating parents from their children.
"This is where freedom ends and slavery begins," he said, peering from a wooden tower across the concrete barrier and a no man's land lined with tank traps and barbed wire. "But you can't stop people from dreaming, no matter how high you build it, or how electrified you make it."
Before visiting the wall, the Baptist minister toured the shabby Berlin ghetto of Kreuzberg, where a volatile mix of poor workers, Turkish migrants and radical punk youths maintain an uneasy, squalid coexistence.
"We are pleased to see he is interested in the underprivileged," said Merik Uncl, a Turkish social worker, as he escorted Jackson on his tour through the neighborhood. "We have our own kind of rainbow coalition here, just as you have in the United States."
Asked what he has learned in the first five days in Europe about security concerns, Jackson, 41, replied that he is now more worried about the dangers of new missile deployments scheduled for Western Europe later this year if Geneva arms talks fail to produce a compromise.
"Resistance movements here may turn violent and could destabilize governments," he explained. "People here are worried about the Pershing and cruise question becoming a permanent Cuban missile crisis for them. I can understand why--the idea of a human barbecue is not too appealing."
Stopping in an African record shop, Jackson bought three T-shirts with a $20 bill, then strolled the streets and expounded on the nuclear arms race and East-West tensions.
"Ronald Reagan's finest hour could come if he would seize the initiative to see Soviet President Yuri Andropov and try to find ways to end the nuclear arms race," he said. "Just as Nixon went to China, and Carter made peace between Egypt and Israel, Reagan should use his communications skills to challenge Andropov for real peace."
Jackson declared that deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles should be delayed to provide more time for a breakthrough in the Geneva negotiations. The recent destruction of the South Korean airliner in which 269 persons were killed demonstrated, he said, that the hair-trigger possibility of a nuclear accident is "all too dangerous and all too likely."
After meeting Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands earlier this week, Jackson reported that she shared his view about the need to delay deployment. The remark touched off a furor because the queen is proscribed from expressing political opinions, especially on such a sensitive topic.
Jackson later apologized for any misinterpretation. In his talks with U.S. soldiers in Frankfurt and West Berlin, Jackson said he gained the impression that "many of them feel alienated by hostility among the Germans and also by the fact that the arena is shifting from the ground to the air, with the new missiles."
As the dapper clergyman meandered through the streets near the Berlin Wall, he was accosted by a host of bleary-eyed punk youths and an anarchist group known as Autonomes holding a sign that read, "Don't hope for peace, fight against war." When Jackson declined to join them for a beer, some jeered and shouted "Traitor." Jackson calmly urged them to fight against any perceived injustices by acting "sober, sane and serious."
Jackson missed a breakfast appointment with West Berlin Mayor Richard von Weizsaeker because he missed an early flight, United Press International reported. The clergyman said he missed the flight because his wife was ill.
At the McNair Army barracks here, Jackson faced a more appreciative audience, arousing enthusiasm with such chants as, "Down with dope, up with hope" and "Hands that once picked cotton can now pick presidents."
"You are leading the peace movement," he told the soldiers. "People died coming across that wall to get a taste of freedom.
"You have a major mission to save them, but ultimately yourselves," Jackson said. "Walls have a way of walking. Maybe to London, next stop New York." Following his short, intense speech, he summoned all those soldiers who had not registered to vote to do so by signing available forms in the nearby gymnasium.
While commanding officers at the bases seemed to admire Jackson's ability to stir the soldiers to sign up to vote, they appeared less than comfortable with his criticism of the missiles.
At the Schweinfurt 3rd Army infantry base, Jackson donned battle fatigues to drive an M1 tank, then perched on the vehicle to address the assembled soldiers about the dangers of the military-industrial complex.
Asked by a reporter what he thought of the scene, Gen. Howard Crowell shrugged and said, "Only in America."