Europeans welcome Obama

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If Germans could vote in US elections, then Barack Obama would probably win with ease.
More than 200,000 people packed into a central Berlin park on Thursday evening to hear a speech by the US Democratic presidential candidate likely to resonate on both sides of the Atlantic.

By Hugh Williamson in Berlin

Billed by the German press as a possible repeat of former US president John F. Kennedy’s 1963 “Ich bin ein Berliner” address, the speech in fact brought back memories of Ronald Reagan’s famous plea to Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall. In the speech to his largest audience during the election campaign – in the US or elsewhere – Mr Obama praised Germans for bringing down communism when they felled the Wall in 1989, but said the US and Europe must stand together to “tear down other walls” dividing races, nations and rich and poor.

Turning on the fluent rhetoric familiar to US voters, he talked of his father’s humble background in Kenya, of his love for America, but also of his recognition that his country had “made mistakes”. The US must finally “end the war in Iraq”, he said, to strong cheers from the crowd.

But the 30-minute speech – his sole public address on his week-long foreign tour of Iraq, the Middle East and Europe – also had a sting in the tail. America had “no better partner than Europe”, but Europe must pull its weight more, for instance in bringing peace to Afghanistan. “The US cannot do this on its own,” he said – a message set to go down well with his voters back home.

And even if JFK did not get a mention, he was never far away, at least for some spectators.

Lutz-Michael Schmidt, a 61-year-old Berliner, was at the former president’s speech 45 years ago, and at Friday’s rally. “One can’t compare: back then it was more momentous, but I wouldn’t have missed today. Obama is very impressive.”

The Financial Times

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