Today, Barack Obama spoke to hundreds of thousands in Berlin, and said:
The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.
We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.
So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.
Watch it or read it. it’s worth every bit of the 25 minutes:
Meanwhile, John McCain had to cancel his planned appearance on an offshore oil rig due to a) a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, and b) an oil spill in that same location, both of which negated the point of his speech, namely that drilling offshore is desirable and safe. Instead, he spent the afternoon in my hometown at Schmidt’s Sausage Haus und Restaurant in German Village, no doubt a clever (not really) counterpoint to Obama’s speech in Berlin. After lunch with six small business owners, including the Flag Lady and a local car dealer, he took several petty shots at Obama, concerning issues that were relevant two years ago.
Watch it if you can:
And so I ask you, which one of these men has not only the vision of a better tomorrow, but the ability to pull the world together to achieve it? McCain can only think about himself and desperately wants the world to bend to his will, but Obama appeals to each of us as individuals and to our shared experience as citizens of the world.
Obama finishes with this:
Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don’t look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?
People of Berlin — people of the world — this is our moment. This is our time.
I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.
But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived — at great cost and great sacrifice — to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom — indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us — what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America’s shores — is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.
These are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. These aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of these aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of these aspirations that all free people — everywhere — became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of these aspirations that a new generation — our generation — must make our mark on the world.
People of Berlin — and people of the world — the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.
No longer will we be distracted or divided by our differences, but instead focused on our common destiny of citizens of the Earth. Yes, it sounds overly idealistic, perhaps highly implausible, but after the past seven years we can no longer afford to go it alone, us against the world, seeking power and glory at a cost to everyone else.
Instead, this is the moment when we choose a new direction in life, a new way forward in the world, and a skinny kid with a funny name to take us there.