On June 26, 1963, speaking from a platform erected on the steps of Rathaus Schöneberg, President John F. Kennedy said:
Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis Romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner!"... 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!"
With four simple words, Kennedy made it clear, not just to the residents of West Berlin, but to the entire world that the United States and West Germany were a united front. He was they and they were he. “We” and “They” were indivisible.
What brought Kennedy’s Berlin speech to mind was this quote from French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.
“Europeans…are clearly determined and committed to defending their currency and their monetary zone.”
Maybe it’s me, but I find it very surprising that with markets in such turmoil, Ms. Lagarde would choose to talk about Europeans in the third person.
For some time, we have watched politicians try to have it both ways, where, when it was beneficial, they were leaders of Europe; and when it wasn’t, they were individual country heads.
In these times, however, national heads must talk and act like indivisible leaders of Europe. Being French, German, Italian, and Spanish must come after being European if there is any hope of holding Europe together.
Is that possible?
Time will soon tell. But it begins with putting "European" in the first person and declaring, in Ms. Lagarde’s case, “Je suis une Européenne.”
---Peter Atwater (Minyanville)