The outgoing president of the United States, Barack Obama, has been making a final round of presidential visits across the world. And, one of the most recent visits was to the great German city of Berlin. By all accounts, Barack’s presence in Berlin – and the speeches and official appearances that he made whilst he was there – were very well received by the local residents.
Building on previous visits
This is not the first time that Obama has visited Berlin in his official capacity as the US president or presidential candidate, though both visits made a big impression. In 2008, just before he was elected into the office of President, Obama stood at the famous Victory Column monument in the city and addressed a crowd that numbered tens of thousands of people, most of them German citizens. 5 years later, in 2013, he stood beside another one of the city’s key landmarks – the Brandenburg Gate – and gave a speech there. This 2013 speech is remembered for being particularly impassioned.
Local reactions to Obama’s 2016 Berlin visit
Many locals were enthusiastic about Obama’s visit this year, including one 36 year old man called Jonas who was hoping to catch a glimpse of the presidential motorcade from his vantage point in Berlin’s governmental quarter. Other locals spoke with passion and praise about Obama’s healthcare reforms in the US. However, there were also dissenting voices amongst the crowds. For example, one employee of a US enterprise based in Berlin, 36 year old Kolja Menning, stated that she believed that Obama’s failures to meet the needs of all Americans paved the way for the rise of Donald Trump. For Menning, Obama’s visit to Berlin was nothing more than ‘a nice gesture’: sociable but ultimately ineffective.
Tightened security in the capital city
As is to be expected, security was tightened throughout Berlin in preparation for the visit of Barack Obama. In particular, Parizer Platz – a focal point of Obama’s visit – has been designated a restricted zone. This status is clearly visible in the fencing that has been erected around the plaza. As most locals know, Parizer Platz is the site of the US Embassy in Berlin. This plaza is usually full of tourists and people heading to work but in preparation for the presidential visit it was vacated and manned by police officers. More than one disgruntled businessperson could be heard complaining that they would be late for work due to these security measures.
A Sad Farewell? What next for Germany and the US?
As this is almost certainly going to be Barack Obama’s last ever presidential visit to Germany, the event has left locals wondering about the future of US – German ties. Angela Merkel has long been one of Obama’s staunchest allies, both in Europe and the world. However, with the accession of Donald Trump, many German nationals (both in Berlin and beyond) predict a substantial cooling of that relationship. As such, Obama’s final visit to Berlin looks set to go down in history as a bitter sweet farewell and something of the end of a golden era for US-German relations.