№ 20/2011 from Jan 20, 2011
On Thursday a ceremony was held by the United States Embassy and Freie Universität Berlin marking the inauguration of former United States President John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961. Speeches given by the president of Freie Universität, Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt, and the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Philip D. Murphy, recalled Kennedy’s visit in Berlin and referred to the continued interest in him and his presidency. The speeches were followed by an informal discussion with the audience. As part of the celebration in the Henry Ford Building, Freie Universität is displaying historical documents from its archives, as well as photographs and films of John F. Kennedy and his visit in Dahlem in June 1963 – just months before his assassination.
During his visit to Berlin on June 26, 1963, John F. Kennedy stopped at Freie Universität, which due to its founding history is closely linked to the United States. On this occasion the U.S. President was awarded honorary citizenship of the university. Close attention was paid to Kennedy’s speech in front of the Henry Ford Building in the middle of the Cold War and the divided city of Berlin. The president of Freie Universität, Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt, emphasized that with this speech Kennedy had a decisive influence on German foreign policy. “His speech at Freie Universität was the source of new impulses leading to the German Eastern Treaties negotiated since 1970 by the social liberal coalition under the motto ‘change through rapprochement’ that later became realpolitik,” said Alt.
The U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Philip D. Murphy, stressed that even after 50 years individuals in the United States and Germany often recall unique events and legendary moments from the 1,000 days of Kennedy’s presidency. The reasons for this are the “strength of his ideas and ideals,” but also Kennedy’s elegance, wit, and style, said Murphy.
On the occasion of this celebration, the University Archives and Freie Universität’s John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies collected historical documents pertaining to the campaign, the visit to Berlin, and the mourning following the assassination of the President. Several of the items, including the gifts Kennedy presented to the university and a thank you letter he wrote to Freie Universität, will be on display in the foyer of the Henry Ford Building until February 16. There are also images of the detailed itinerary of his visit to Berlin and photographs of him giving his speech in Dahlem.