Remarks by President Obama at the Brandenburg Gate
Pariser Platz, Brandenburg Gate
Hello, Berlin! (Applause.) Thank you, Chancellor Merkel, for your leadership, your friendship, and the example of your life -- from a child of the East to the leader of a free and united Germany.
As I’ve said, Angela and I don’t exactly look like previous German and American leaders. But the fact that we can stand here today, along the fault line where a city was divided, speaks to an eternal truth: No wall can stand against the yearning of justice, the yearnings for freedom, the yearnings for peace that burns in the human heart. (Applause.)
Mayor Wowereit, distinguished guests, and especially the people of Berlin and of Germany -- thank you for this extraordinarily warm welcome. In fact, it’s so warm and I feel so good that I’m actually going to take off my jacket, and anybody else who wants to, feel free to. (Applause.) We can be a little more informal among friends. (Applause.)
As your Chancellor mentioned, five years ago I had the privilege to address this city as senator. Today, I’m proud to return as President of the United States. (Applause.) And I bring with me the enduring friendship of the American people, as well as my wife, Michelle, and Malia and Sasha. (Applause.) You may notice that they’re not here. The last thing they want to do is to listen to another speech from me. (Laughter.) So they’re out experiencing the beauty and the history of Berlin. And this history speaks to us today.
Here, for thousands of years, the people of this land have journeyed from tribe to principality to nation-state; through Reformation and Enlightenment, renowned as a “land of poets and thinkers,” among them Immanuel Kant, who taught us that freedom is the “unoriginated birthright of man, and it belongs to him by force of his humanity.”
Here, for two centuries, this gate stood tall as the world around it convulsed
-- through the rise and fall of empires; through revolutions and republics; art and music and science that reflected the height of human endeavor, but also war and carnage that exposed the depths of man’s cruelty to man.
It was here that Berliners carved out an island of democracy against the greatest of odds. As has already been mentioned, they were supported by an airlift of hope, and we are so honored to be joined by Colonel Halvorsen, 92 years old -- the original “candy bomber.” We could not be prouder of him. (Applause.) I hope I look that good, by the way, when I’m 92. (Laughter.)
During that time, a Marshall Plan seeded a miracle, and a North Atlantic Alliance protected our people. And those in the neighborhoods and nations to the East drew strength from the knowledge that freedom was possible here, in Berlin -- that the waves of crackdowns and suppressions might therefore someday be overcome.
Today, 60 years after they rose up against oppression, we remember the East German heroes of June 17th. When the wall finally came down, it was their dreams that were fulfilled. Their strength and their passion, their enduring example remind us that for all the power of militaries, for all the authority of governments, it is citizens who choose whether to be defined by a wall, or whether to tear it down. (Applause.)
And we’re now surrounded by the symbols of a Germany reborn. A rebuilt Reichstag and its glistening glass dome. An American embassy back at its historic home on Pariser Platz. (Applause.) And this square itself, once a desolate no man’s land, is now open to all. So while I am not the first American President to come to this gate, I am proud to stand on its Eastern side to pay tribute to the past. (Applause.)
For throughout all this history, the fate of this city came down to a simple question: Will we live free or in chains? Under governments that uphold our universal rights, or regimes that suppress them? In open societies that respect the sanctity of the individual and our free will, or in closed societies that suffocate the soul?
As free peoples, we stated our convictions long ago. As Americans, we believe that “all men are created equal” with the right to life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And as Germans, you declared in your Basic Law that “the dignity of man is inviolable.” (Applause.) Around the world, nations have pledged themselves to a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the inherent dignity and rights of all members of our human family.