After much anticipation, Barack Obama’s Berlin speech is upon us. Adoring Germans are expected to turn up by the thousands, tens of thousands, or perhaps billions to see their new favorite American politician. Obama had originally considered giving the speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate, but after critics contended the site was inappropriate for someone who hasn’t even won the election yet, Obama decided to deliver the same exact speech in front of a different, less presumptuous symbolic landmark … the Victory Column. Though the theme of the address is European-American relations, the precise details are unknown. Will he say something in German, like JFK? Will he tell Mr. Gorbachev to tear down this wall, like Ronald Reagan? We’ll live-blog the event and let you know.
1:09 p.m.: The crowds look pretty huge and enthusiastic despite this not being a David Hasselhoff concert.
1:10 p.m.: They’ve begun alternating “O-ba-ma” and “Yes we can!” chants as they await his arrival. Now they’ve seemingly given up. Unusually disorganized for Germans.
1:21 p.m.: Obama emerges, he’s greeted with uproarious cheers.
1:22 p.m.: The crowd starts the Obama chant again. Obama says thank you literally twelve times.
1:23 p.m.: “I speak to you not as a candidate for president, but as a citizen.” Sure, whatever you say.
1:29 p.m.: Obama starts with a history of the Berlin airlift, and the rebuilding of Germany after WWII. He tells the “people of the world” to “look at Berlin.”
1:31 p.m.: Ah! He said “tore down that wall” like Reagan! He was speaking in the past tense, but still, pretty close.
1:35 p.m.: And now he’s saying that we need to tear down metaphorical “walls” between nations, races, and religions. He has literally just said we need to tear down these walls. So Reagan.
1:38 p.m.: Obama is reusing his “this is the moment” refrain of his Iowa caucus victory speech. But this time, this is the moment where we defeat radical Islam and the Taliban, rid the world of nuclear weapons, strengthen the European Union, work with Russia, and guarantee “free and fair trade for all.” The last point gets absolutely no applause. It was kind of awkward.
1:46 p.m.: “I know my country has not perfected itself … We’ve made our share of mistakes.” Uh-oh, this line of thinking might not go over well in the red states. “But I know how much I love America.” Oh okay. Good. Plus he’s wearing a flag pin.
1:51 p.m.: Obama finishes with a message of global responsibility and a challenge to change the world for the better. He waves up onstage as the crowd applauds and begins chanting both “O-ba-ma” and “Yes we can!” at the same time again.
1:54 p.m.: Now he’s down in the crowd, moving down the line with his security detail hovering over him, shaking outstretched hands and possibly healing illnesses.
1:56 p.m.: Obama’s had enough healing for one day, and the crowd cheers as he leaves the line. He’s walking away with Brian Williams. Gives one turn and waves to the crowd. Williams and Obama immediately start doing an interview. The crowd begins to disperse as it heads en masse to the local discotheque.