Obama Criticizes Complacency in the ”City of Hope”
“Hello Börlin. Thank you, Chancellor Mörkel.” Obama charmed the crowd and gave an emotional boost to German-American relations, but I think his political message to Germany was too subtle and has not convinced politicians and citizens.
President Obama said that “freedom won here in Berlin”, while he stood behind bullet-proof glass in a sort of aquarium… More than anything he said, it is this level of protection that convinced me that we live in a dangerous world and that we cannot take security for granted and that freedom is precious.
My video is shaky, but I think you will see that the crowd was in a great mood. Yes, it was by invitation only, but still pretty diverse:
President Obama charmed the crowd like no German politician can. He appreciated the “warm” welcome and took off his jacket: “We can be a bit more informal among friends.”
That’s what people liked and when they cheered. Not so much, when he quoted Kennedy’s call for action to “lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today” and “beyond the freedom of merely this city.”
The most important part of Obama’s speech in my opinion with emphasis added:
Because courageous crowds climbed atop that wall, because corrupt dictatorships gave way to new democracies, because millions across this continent now breathe the fresh air of freedom, we can say, here in Berlin, here in Europe — our values won. Openness won. Tolerance won. And freedom won here in Berlin. (Applause.)
And yet, more than two decades after that triumph, we must acknowledge that there can, at times, be a complacency among our Western democracies. Today, people often come together in places like this to remember history — not to make it. After all, we face no concrete walls, no barbed wire. There are no tanks poised across a border. There are no visits to fallout shelters. And so sometimes there can be a sense that the great challenges have somehow passed. And that brings with it a temptation to turn inward — to think of our own pursuits, and not the sweep of history; to believe that we’ve settled history’s accounts, that we can simply enjoy the fruits won by our forebears.
But I come here today, Berlin, to say complacency is not the character of great nations. Today’s threats are not as stark as they were half a century ago, but the struggle for freedom and security and human dignity — that struggle goes on. And I’ve come here, to this city of hope, because the tests of our time demand the same fighting spirit that defined Berlin a half-century ago.
Chancellor Merkel mentioned that we mark the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s stirring defense of freedom, embodied in the people of this great city. His pledge of solidarity — “Ich bin ein Berliner” — (applause) — echoes through the ages. But that’s not all that he said that day. Less remembered is the challenge that he issued to the crowd before him: “Let me ask you,” he said to those Berliners, “let me ask you to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today” and “beyond the freedom of merely this city.” Look, he said, “to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.”
Or see my post prior to Obama’s speech: Germany Needs Tough Love from Obama
Joerg Wolf works for the Atlantische Initiative as editor-in-chief of the open think tank atlantic-community.org. He founded the Atlantic Review in 2005 and blogs there and on Facebook in his free time on transatlantic issues ranging from security to economics and pop culture. Joerg is a Berliner, a Fulbrighter, and an Atlanticist. Follow him on Twitter.
Crossposted from Obama Criticizes Complacency in the ”City of Hope” on Atlantic Review.