“Citizen of the world” Obama waves to the gathered crowd as he arrives to make a speech in front of the Victory Column in Berlin
In the end Barack Obama had no need to break into German to leave the 200,000 crowd roaring with delight.
The man the German media has dubbed the ‘Black JFK’ stuck to English – but his welcome in Berlin last night stood comparison with the rapturous reception given to John F. Kennedy’s famous 1963 ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ address at the height of the Cold War.
Mr Obama opened his speech at the Victory Column in the capital’s Tiergarten park with the words: ‘I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before, although tonight I speak to you not as a candidate for president of the United States, but as a proud citizen of the United States and a proud citizen of the world.’
He told the crowd that he knew he did not look much like the Americans who had addressed Berlin before, emphasising his Kenyan roots to the delight of the thousands cheering his every word as ‘ Obamamania’ took over.
Mr Obama, who arrives in London tomorrow at the end of a week-long overseas tour to boost his foreign policy credentials as the Democrat opponent of Republican John McCain, chose Berlin for the only formal speech of the trip.
He urged Europe to stand by the U.S. in bringing stability to Afghanistan and confronting other threats, from climate change to nuclear proliferation.
And he said America had no better partner than Europe.
Mr Obama, who is hugely popular in Germany where polls show President George Bush is loathed, spoke in front of the 230ft column built to celebrate 19th-century Prussian military victories over Denmark, France and Austria.
Addressing many world issues, Obama said: ‘a new generation, our generation, must make our mark on history’.
He spoke of tearing down walls between countries, between races and between religions – that the ‘walls’ between Christians, Muslims and Jews cannot stand.
‘Let us build on our common history, and seize our common destiny, and once again engage in that noble struggle to bring justice and peace to our world.’
He also spoke on the Iraq war, saying: ‘This is the moment when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close.’
He dwelt at length on the historic ties between the U.S. and Germany – touching on the Berlin Airlift 60 years ago and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
He said the fall of the Wall had brought hope but also dangers. ‘No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone,’ he said.
America and Europe had grown apart, he said, but it was vital they stood together on such issues, particularly Afghanistan.
‘No one welcomes war. I recognise the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan,’ Mr Obama said.
‘But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO’s first mission beyond Europe’s borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone.’ He acknowledged the differences between Europe and the U.S.
‘No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more – not less.
‘Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity. ‘That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another.’