"There are some who say that Communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin."— President John F. Kennedy, Berlin, Germany, June 26, 1963
About the Exhibit
John F. Kennedy was the first president to effectively use the new medium of television to speak directly to the American people. Although some worried about the risk of mistakes or injudicious statements by the President, others thought the press showed insufficient respect for the dignity of his office. The public response to JFK’s innovation of live televised press conferences was extremely positive.
During his three years in office he held sixty-four news conferences, an average of one every sixteen days. The first, held on January 25, 1961, was viewed by an estimated 65 million persons in 21.5 million homes. A poll taken in 1961 indicated that ninety per cent of those interviewed had watched at least one of his first three press conferences; the average audience for all the broadcast conferences was eighteen million viewers. Video selections of these press conferences form the centerpiece of this exhibit.
The television footage, documents and artifacts displayed in this exhibit provide a sketch of this distinctive feature of the Kennedy presidency and a sample of the range of domestic and international issues John Kennedy addressed during his tenure in the White House.
Among those issues was the status of Berlin. In August of 1961 the Soviet Premier Khrushchev ordered the building of the Berlin Wall to seal East Berlin and prevent people from defecting to the Democratic West Germany. The Berlin Wall
served as a symbol of the Cold War from the night of its construction on August 13, 1961 until its destruction at the end of 1990. On June 26, 1963 at Berlin's Rudolph Wilde Platz (later renamed John F. Kennedy Platz), President Kennedy stood before a large crowd and gave a speech
to the people of Berlin criticizing the construction of the Wall. He stated: “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." Loosely translated into English, "Ich bin ein Berliner” means “I am a Berliner.”
On display is a Clock
, created by and given to President Kennedy by Heinz Wipperfeld, a Berlin citizen; the three dials of the clock showing time in Washington, Berlin and Moscow reflect the struggle between the Soviet Union and the West over the future of Berlin. A silver Freedom Bell
is on view, which is a replica of the large scale Freedom Bell that was given to Berlin by the United States on October 24, 1950. The bell was presented to John F. Kennedy by West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt at the White House in 1961. Also on exhibit is the Radio and Television Executive Society Medal
presented to President Kennedy in response to his innovation of holding live televised press conferences.