A WORLD THAT STANDS AS ONE
July 24, 2008 | Berlin, Germany
Thank you to the citizens of Berlin and to the people of Germany. Let me thank Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier for welcoming me earlier today. Thank you, Mayor Wowereit , the Berlin Senate , the police, and most of all thank you for this welcome.
I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen—a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.
I know that I don’t look like the Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable . My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father—my grandfather—was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.
At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning —his dream—required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West. And so he wrote letter after letter to universities all across America until somebody, somewhere answered his prayer for a better life .
That is why I’m here. And you are here because you, too, know that yearning. This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life.
Ours is a partnership that truly began sixty years ago this summer, on the day when the first American plane touched down at Tempelhof .
On that day, much of this continent still lay in ruin. The rubble of this city had yet to be built into a wall . The Soviet shadow had swept across Eastern Europe, while in the West, America, Britain, and France took stock of their losses and pondered how the world might be remade.
This is where the two sides met. And on the twenty fourth of June, 1948, the communists chose to blockade the western part of the city. They cut off food and supplies to more than two million Germans in an effort to extinguish the last flame of freedom in Berlin.
The size of our forces was no match for the much larger Soviet army. And yet retreat would have allowed Communism to march across Europe. Where the last war had ended, another world war could have easily begun. All that stood in the way was Berlin.
And that’s when the airlift began—when the largest and most unlikely rescue in history brought food and hope to the people of this city.
The odds were stacked against success. In the winter, a heavy fog filled the sky above, and many planes were forced to turn back without dropping off the needed supplies. The streets where we stand were filled with hungry families who had no comfort from the cold.