On June 26th, 1963 the president of the United States of America John F. Kennedy held his historic speach at Schöneberger Rathaus in West-Berlin and said the historic phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner!”. And my mom was there too. Does that make me a Berliner? What makes you a Berliner? Are you a Berliner? How do you become one?
An often discussed question, that is probably not that difficult to answer.
Everywhere people ask “So where do you come from?” – and even people living 20 years or longer in Berlin tend to answer where they grew up: I’m from this and that village – near this and that city. Be it “Stuttgart” or “Cologne” or “Buxtehude” or “Bielefeld” or “New York” or “Italy” oder “Canada” or… Some people probably even lived longer in Berlin than in the city they’re about to describe – and following that description a common conclusion is “Yes, there is not so many real Berliners”. Excuse me? What exactly is a real Berliner?
Well – in various communities people come from somewhere. Most people living in the United States today have foreign / overseas backgrounds: Ireland, Italy, Poland, Sweden – the majority of people living on US-American soil today is not *Native Amerian*.
Similar phenmenas count for cities like Berlin. There are many names that would sound as if they had french or polish roots – and indeed: Berlin – and also Germany – is what we would probably call a Multi-Kulti-Society. There is hardly any *Real German* as there is any *Real Berliner*.
But climbing up the family tree was not really my original intention. When Kennedy said his famous words “Ich bin ein Berliner” he was also relating something different – something bigger, greater than origin. There is a different approach – and that could make you a Berliner as easy as 1-2-3. And this dosn’t include any which craft or tests you would have to pass.
One fine day I decided I would now finally “Be a Berliner”. This woulnd’t mean I would forget where I come from. But that part is a bit complicated anyways: born in Berlin, grew up in a small town near Hamburg, moved ‘back’ to Berlin in 1992. Well. Where do I come from? But let’s move on….
Say it: “Ich bin ein Berliner”. That’s it. That’s all you have to do: say it out loud, and know what you’re saying. Know who said it before you, know what it means. Know the context: post-war Berlin, devided city, devided country, the Russians, the Americans, the French, the British, the Germans, the Nazis, the Berlin Wall, Cold War, despair, hope, friendship, freedom. Do your homework. Embrace the city. Let the city embrace you. But please don’t overdo it :)
Then say it: “Ich bin ein Berliner” –– and if you don’t blush, your voice doesn’t tremble, you’re not giggling or rolling your eyes then that is it. It’s ok to smile, it’s ok to feel weird and uneasy – it’s ok to shed a tear. It’s as easy AND as difficult as that.
PS: so you want to say it, but don’t know how to say “Ich bin ein Berliner”? Thanks to wikipedia here’s some help for you: over there you can watch a video clip showing the original speech Kennedy held in 1963 -> en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ich_bin_ein_Berliner
PS2: and – yes – there is some type of Jelly Doughnut that is called “Berliner” – but that has nothing to do with JFK. Yes, it is basically named “from Berlin” or “part of Berlin” – and that is basically what JFK also wanted to say.. But putting that doughnut in this context, even mentioning it in this context is wrong… So i won’t…:)