JFK Berlin Wall (1963)
I am proud to come to this city as the
guest of your distinguished Mayor, who has symbolized
throughout the world the fighting spirit of West Berlin.
And I am proud to visit the Federal Republic with your
distinguished Chancellor, who for so many years has
committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress,
and to come here in the company of my fellow American,
General Clay, who has been in this city during its great
moments of crisis and will come again if ever needed.
Two thousand years ago the proudest boast
was "civis Romanus sum." Today, in the world
of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein
I appreciate my interpreter translating
There are many people in the world who
really don't understand, or say they don't, what is
the great issue between the Free World and the Communist
world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say
that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come
to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and
elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them
come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that
it's true that communism is an evil system, but it permits
us to make economic progress. "Laßt sie nach
Berlin kommen." Let them come to Berlin! Freedom
has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect,
but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people
in, to prevent them from leaving us. I want to say,
on behalf of my countrymen, who live many miles away
on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant
from you, that they take the greatest pride that they
have been able to share with you, even from a distance,
the story of the last eighteen years. I know of no town,
no city, that has been besieged for eighteen years that
still lives with the vitality and the force and the
hope and the determination of the city of West Berlin.
While the wall is the most obvious and
vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist
system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction
in it. For it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense
not only against history but an offense against humanity,
separating families, dividing husbands and wives and
brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish
to be joined together.
What is true of this city is true of Germany--real,
lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long
as one German out of four is denied the elementary right
of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In eighteen
years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans
has earned the right to be free, including the right
to unite their families and their nation in lasting
peace, with goodwill to all people. You live in a defended
island of freedom, but your life is part of the main.
So let me ask you, as I close, to lift your eyes beyond
the dangers of today to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond
the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country
of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond
the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves
and ourselves to all mankind.
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. When that
day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin
can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were
in the front lines for almost two decades.
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."
Original hand written excerpt: "Ich
bin ein Berliner." "Civis Romanus sum."