"Ich bin ein Berliner" Speech (Jun. 26, 1963)
John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I am proud to come to this city as the guest of your distinguished Mayor, who has symbolized throughout the world the fighting spirit of West Berlin. And I am proud to visit the Federal Republic with your distinguished Chancellor who for so many years has committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress, and to come here in the company of my fellow American, General Clay, who has been in this city during its great moments of crisis and will come again if ever needed.

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was "civis Romanus sum." Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner."

I appreciate my interpreter translating my German!

There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sic nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us. I want to say, on behalf of my countrymen, who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you, that they take the greatest pride that they have been able to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the last 18 years. I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope and the determination of the city of West Berlin. While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.

What is true of this city is true of Germany—real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people. You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let me ask you, as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner!"

Shaking hands with the audience
Metaphor /Similie

The Berlin Wall
  • This was a wall that was constructed in 1961by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) which completely cut off West Berlin from East Germany
  • The wall was surrounded by weapons used to fend off emigrants and immigrants
  • The GDR claimed that Western Berlin had not yet been fully "de-Nazified"
  • In 1989, the wall fell which paved the way for German reunification

Content Analysis

This was one of JFK’s most notable speeches in history. He sympathizes with the Germans and supports them by telling them there is trust between the United States and Germany. He uses simple language and phrases to compare the political systems of the “free world” and the “communist world.”

From the beginning of the speech he works on ensuring the German people know he is not their to force his beliefs or views upon them. He addresses himself as a "guest" and admits the weaknesses of his own country; "Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect."

By using pathos, he can emotionally connect to the audience and draw them in, to follow his message. JFK constantly repeats the words: peace, free, good, and right, to reemphasize the positivity of his cause. He also compares Germany not only to the United States, but also to all of mankind to broaden his words and make them even more important. Most of all, JFK had credibility. Late in the speech, he talks about slavery and freedom which he knows much about since his own nation had suffered from it too.

Through his use of epistrophe, the reverse form of anaphora, with his repeated phrase "Let them come to Berlin." He also says it in German which demonstrates in effort to relate to his audience and it helps make the speech and its meaning memorable.

"All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, "Ich bin ein Berliner!"
His closing line of the speech is strong and powerful. JFK makes Berlin the symbol of freedom for the world.