One of JFK’s most powerful speeches was delivered from the balcony of the Rathaus Schöneberg in Berlin, Germany. The purpose of this speech was to show the support of the Untied States for the democratic West Germany shortly after the Soviet-supported East Germany erected the Berlin Wall.

The speech and show of support by the United States proved to be a great morale booster for the West Berliners as they were literally surrounded by East Germany and feared occupation at any moment. The famous quote that made the speech so famous is showcased below:

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen]. 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 concept of Kennedy delcaring himself a Berliner was a last minute inclusion by Kennedy in the speech and he practiced the phrase in German in the office of Mayor Willy Brandt before delivering the speech. He also created a phonetic card for the phrase ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ to ensure he pronounced it correctly during the speech. (The cue card can be viewed here.)

The speech was very well received but Kennedy’s National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy felt the speech was a bit too strong and the text was revised to a softer tone before delivering it to the Free University later that day.

This strong message of defiance was aimed both at the West Berliners as well as the Soviets and represented a clear statement of U.S. policy in the wake of the construction of the Berlin Wall.

Get the DVD: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums and own your own copy of this speech as well as many others in this excellent JFK documatary.

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