50th Anniversary JFK “Ich bin ein Berliner” Speech

It’s hard to believe its the 50th Anniversary of JFK’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. On June 26, 1963, U.S. president John F. Kennedy visited West Berlin for the 15th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. He was the first American president to visit the city after the Berlin Wall was divided August 13, 1961.

Kennedy delivering his speech in Berlin (1963)

During President John F. Kennedy’s speech in 1963 in front of the Schoeneberg Town Hall and thousands of onlookers, with one sentence, “Ich bin ein Berliner”, the president demonstrated his solidarity with Berlin. There was just one little hiccup or let’s say gaffe.

The grammar was said to be incorrect and to German speakers JFK said in his speech “Ich bin ein Berliner” – “I am a doughnut,” instead of “Ich bin Berliner” – “I am a citizen of Berlin.”

Well, I must say JFK had guts to speak in German, even if only a few words because German is a most difficult language to learn. Besides, what’s wrong with being a Berliner–a jelly filled doughnut Anyway, I can think of worse foods to be such as a morel, monkish, truffle, celery root, or cottage cheese. These are some of my favorite foods, but are just plain ugly foods.

A jelly doughnut on the other has a nice round shape, soft light golden color, and is firm but not too hard to the touch. Sitting nobly in the bakery display case, the powdered sugar-coated donut entices us with its rich, simple, decadent, yet refined self. It tantalizes the senses as we gently nibble in the middle to reach the surprise. One bite of a Berliner onto the tongue’s taste receptors reveals biter, sour, salty and sweet tastes. It’s so delicious that after the first bite you might even find yourself saying “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

By the way, the proper way for a resident of Berlin to say “I am a Berliner” is “Ich bin Berliner.” What Kennedy wanted to express when he said “Ich bin ein Berliner“, is that he was in spirit a Berliner. So technically, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” is correct and a German mother tongue speaker would not have misunderstood JFK’s context or intention of the phrase.

So when you’re sitting on the sofa watching President Obama deliver his speech at Berlin’s historic Brandenburg Gate, incidentally where both John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan gave historic speeches, forget the grammatical issues and just go eat a jelly doughnut. Or is it a donut?