U.S. Ambassador remembers JFK, jokes about Wikileaks


President Kennedy delivers a speech at Free University Berlin after receiving an honorary citizenship on June 26, 1963.

President John F. Kennedy holds a special place in many Berliners’ hearts, especially because of that one time when he didn’t call himself a doughnut. He also holds a special place for Free University Berlin, where he held a second speech on the afternoon of that summer day in 1963.*

It was Free University, then, where U.S. Ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy came to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s inauguration today. Before students, faculty and a half dozen Berliners who were there in ’63, Murphy remembered Kennedy’s visit to Berlin, where he was greeted ethusiastically. “We’ll never have another day like this,” he reported Kennedy told advisors afterwards.

Murphy explained that what would become one of Kennedy’s most famous lines was one he added to his speech at Schöneberg Townhall at the last minute. Delivering that part of his speech in German, the ambassador joked,

“Ich hoffe, dass man sich in Berlin auch an mich erinnern wird, weil ich versucht habe, Deutsch zu sprechen, und nicht wegen Etwas, das ich in diplomatischer Kommunikation mit dem U.S.-Aussenministerium gesagt habe.”

In English,

“I hope I will also be remembered in Berlin because I tried to speak German, and not because of something I said in diplomatic communication to the U.S. State Department.”

This self-ironic referral to the State Department cables published by Wikileaks, which caused a stir in Germany for unfavorable portrayals of some of the country’s leaders, earned him laughter and applause from the audience.

Murphy also spoke about how Kennedy’s ideals and political impact continue to reverberate today, saying the President is remembered “not just for the things he finished, but for the things he set in motion.” Among those, Murphy referred to the nuclear test ban as well as a climate of negotiations, a realization that problems can only be solved when nations work together.

Murphy ended his speech in the present, drawing a connection to current U.S. President Barack Obama. In his Tuscon speech following the shooting that left Representative Gabrielle Giffords critically wounded, Murphy said Obama spoke to many of the same themes Kennedy once talked about – the longing for unity, a moral imperative, and the need for a civil discourse in order to address the challenges ahead.

* The university includes the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies that I had the pleasure to attend. One of the institutes professors, Andreas Etges, has researched and written about Kennedy extensively and curated the Kennedy museum in Berlin.

Image of a city

Photographer Eric Fischer has produced some very detailed and insightful images of American cities. Inspired by Bill Rankin’s map of Chicago’s racial and ethnic divides, he mapped the 40 largest U.S. cities, color-coding them according to their residents’ ethnicity.

“Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Gray is Other, and each dot is 25 people. Data from Census 2000,” he explains on his Flickr page.

“The results for various cities are fascinating: Just like every city is different, every city is integrated (or segregated) in different ways,” Gawker notes.

Browsing the 40 images offers some interesting comparisons. Some are largely ethnically separate (Philadelphia, New York), some more mixed (Long Beach, San Franscisco). The image of Chicago shows just what I experienced there: a highly segregated city.

Chicago_by Eric Fisher

Image of Chicago by Eric Fisher, via Flickr

PS: It would be interesting to see if there has been a shift since 2000 once the data from the latest census, done this year, becomes available.

Standstill in the Senate – Thoughts on New Yorker article

“Just how broken is the Senate?” George Packer asked in a recent New Yorker article I posted on my tumblr blog the other day. I highly recommend reading it. Here are some thoughts.

  • Sen. Claire McCaskill is one of my favorite Senators. I covered her hearing on Afghan police force training (the one that had to be rescheduled as described at the beginning of the article). She seemed genuinely outraged at what she called an “unacceptable” state of police training in Afghanistan. She’s on Twitter, too.
  • The whirlwind conversation on blogs, Twitter and other Hill media such as Political or Roll Call, Packer says, is “News about, by, and for a tiny kingdom of political obsessives [that] dominates the attention of senators and staff, while stories that might affect their constituents go unreported”.
    This parallels discussions I’ve had recently with my journalist friends. Do we spend too much time catering to the hyper-engaged readers, while neglecting those who don’t keep up with news in a million different ways? After all, engaged readers are a news organizations’ cash cows: the top 25 percent of newspaper Web visitors account for 86 percent of page views, reports the Columbia Journalism Review. How can we serve both groups of readers (and constituents)?
  • The heightened focus on tension has pushed polarization, writes Packer. Dodd, a Senator since 1981, told him he hasn’t had a reporter from Connecticut covering him in years. Dodd says “D.C. publications only see me through the prism of conflict.” “Lamar Alexander described the effect as ‘this instant radicalizing of positions to the left and the right.’” (online pg. 2)
  • The article really crystallizes the importance of relationships in the Senate. With heightened partisanship, hectic schedules and little time or inclination to get to know one another, Sens. Kyl and Dodd contend that trust has disappeared.
  • “The Senate, by its nature, is a place where consensus reigns and personal relationships are paramount,” Lamar Alexander said. “And that’s not changed.” Which is exactly the problem: it’s a self-governing body that depends on the reasonableness of its members to function. (online pg 7)

  • Should Senators be familiar with the ‘spirit of the Senate’, its intention as a body, to avoid falling into the built-in possibilities of obstructionism? Is that why the late Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who always carried a copy of the constitution with him, had such an important role in keeping alive the legacy of the institution? (Byrd is supposedly the only person to have read the 1,600-page Senate rulebook in its entirety)
  • Maneuvers intended to foster debate and decisions (such as holds, meant to allow a Senator to make it to the Capitol on horseback in time for a vote) are increasingly used to obstruct business. It has become the norm for a handful of senators “to hold everything up,” writes Packer.

One feature of the diminished U.S. senator is the ease with which he moves from legislating to lobbying. (online pg 7)


Seit dem letzten Post ist so einiges passiert: Ich habe meine Bachelorarbeit fertig geschrieben und abgegeben, und bin sogar ganz zufrieden damit. Was bemerkenswert ist, da ich die ganzen 25 Seiten in einer Woche zu Papier gebracht habe. Danke an dieser Stelle an Nora für Inspiration und gemeinsames Leiden in der Bibliothek!

Außerdem hab ich endlich meinen Flug gebucht – ein nicht unwesentlicher Punkt, will man in die USA reisen. Mit dem Schiff dauert das schließlich doch etwas lange. Am Mittwoch, den 17.6., geht es los. Ich kann es irgendwie gar nicht glauben, dass es jetzt wirklich so weit ist! Ein Jahr organisieren, nachdenken, Unterlagen zusammensuchen und erstellen, bewerben, hoffen, Daumen drücken, jubeln, wieder nachdenken und schließlich entscheiden. Danach noch mehr organisieren, und jetzt ist der Abflug wirklich da. Dazu ganz viele Abschiede von so vielen lieben Freunden.

Ich bin traurig, dass ich nicht mehr hier sein werde – in Berlin, bei meinen Lieben und Liebsten, bei allen Freunden und all den großartigen Dingen, die diese Stadt zu bieten hat. Gleichzeitig ist da so viel Vorfreude auf Chicago, auf die Northwestern University, auf DC, auf neue Freunde, neue Fähigkeiten, neues Wissen, neue Einblicke, Einsichten und Irrtümer, darauf, neue Wege zu gehen. Mittwoch geht es los.

Zum Glück begleitet ihr mich dabei!