Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Obama at the Gate

Should Barack Obama deliver a speech at Berlin’s iconic Branderburg Gate (that’s Brandenburger Tor auf deutsch)? Time Magazine identifies two moments in US Presidential history as iconic as the Gate itself.

Let’s see if you can identify the speakers by the words alone:

Ich bin ein Berliner!

Tear down this Wall!

Both worthy of exclamation points indeed. The gate has been, as the article explains, a political device for a host of US politicians, turning to Kennedy in Berlin author Andreas W. Daum.

‘Berlin has not always been a friendly place for American politicians. Shortly after the Soviet Union began construction of the Berlin Wall, John F. Kennedy sent Vice President Lyndon Johnson to West Berlin. “They’ll be a lot of shooting and I’ll be in the middle of it,” Johnson told an aide. “Why me?” Seven years later, West German leftists plotted to hurl pudding-filled balloons at Hubert Humphrey during his trip to the city; the police managed to disrupt the plan, but Humphrey was booed and heckled everywhere he went. And while history remembers Ronald Reagan’s challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Wall, it’s usually forgotten that Reagan’s visit to West Berlin occasioned the worst rioting the city had seen since the 1960s, prompting officials to shut down the city’s subway system for the only time in its history.’

Read Obama’s Brandenburg Concerto >>

Oh, and those quotes come from Kennedy and Reagan.

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