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To the editor:
Taking questions from reporters at an Oval Office meeting with Polish President Andrzei Duda, our narcissistic leader could not keep from bragging on himself.
He boasted that his remarks during a 2017 visit to Poland as “the best speech ever made by a president in Europe.” Trying to appear modest, not an easy task for him, he added “I could say it, but I don’t want to say it, but some people….” declining to say who had offered such praise. “But I did not say that. I’m just quoting other people.”
I am afraid, as usual, history proves you wrong. These two best speeches were made by President Kennedy and President Reagan, one a Democrat and one a Republican.
On June 26, 1963, President Kennedy standing before the Berlin Wall said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Speaking before an audience of 450,000, Kennedy gave what is regarded as the best-known speech of the Cold War and the most famous anti-communist speech, proclaiming that “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!’”
The speech was a great morale boost for West Berliners, who lived in an enclave deep inside East Germany and feared a possible East German occupation.
On June 12, 1987, President Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate, where he famously said to Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, “if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
President Reagan’s speech, like President Kennedy’s speech, can be found if you look up Great Speeches in history.
Both President’s extolled the virtues of freedom and saw the Wall as a barrier, a gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guard towers separating free men from those who were not free.
Like President Kennedy, President Reagan proclaimed himself a Berliner, with these words. “Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow man. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar.”
Despite the recognition of the greatness of their words, neither man felt the need to proclaim,”the best speech ever made by a president in Europe.” Two years later, in 1989, the Wall did come down.
Mary Kathryn Gepner