Sunday, June 26, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 1992


West Berlin, Germany (JFK+50) Fifty-three years ago today, June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy spoke in Rudolph Wilde Plaza to a million West German citizens.

The President said...

"Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was 'civis Romanus sum.'  Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is 'Ich bin ein Berliner.'

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.'"

The Atlantic magazine argues, and JFK+50 agrees, that these last four words are, next to "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," the most famous President Kennedy every spoke.

After each sentence JFK spoke in English, his interpreter translated it into German.  Noticing the interpreter also repeated his German words again in German, the President said...

"I appreciate my interpreter translating my German."

JFK, the leader of the free world in the Cold War against the spread of communism, wanted the people of West Berlin to know that America stood with them in the struggle.

West Berlin was completely surrounded by communist territory by virtue of the agreement signed by the Allies at the end of World War II.

President Kennedy preceded his "Ich bin ein Berliner" line with these prophetic words... 

"Freedom is indivisible and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.  When all are free, then we can 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 globe."

The crowd waved American flags and chanted in unison...

"Ken-e-dee, Ken-e-dee!"

Thomas Putnam points out a fact which will probably come as a surprise to most readers, President Kennedy literally wrote his own Berlin speech.  He was not pleased with the text that his speechwriters had given him and even added phonetically "Ish bin ein Bearleener" to the speech "moments before taking the stage."

Mr. Putnam also tells us that those who say JFK was incorrect in putting the article "ein" in his phrase are themselves in error.  He argues that the article was properly inserted to imply the President, while not a Berliner by birth, was so in spirit.


"Ich Bin ein Berliner" Speech, June 26, 1963," The Miller Center,

"The Real Meaning of Ich Bin ein Berliner," by Thomas Putnam, The Atlantic,

JFK Speaks To West Berliners
June 26, 1963
Photo by Robert Knudsen
JFK Library Photo