Mr. Sunshine: ‘Yes We Can’ Memories Flood Back on Feel-Good Trip

Published on Spiegel Online International, an Analysis By Florian Gathmann, Veit Medick and Philipp Wittrock, June 19, 2013 (34 Photo in the Gallery).

Barack Obama’s first official trip to Berlin was short on substance but rich in symbolism. For a few hours in the searing summer heat, his relaxed charm and eloquent idealism triggered memories of the heyday of “Yes we can,” before drone attacks, Prism and realpolitik.  

What a scorcher! And no one felt it more on this big day in Berlin than the people gathered on Pariser Platz square. Some of the invited guests didn’t even show up because of the sudden heatwave engulfing the capital. Some 4,000 sweated it out in the blazing sunshine until Barack Obama finally arrived. Behind the bullet-proof screen, the sweat dripped off his brow, so he took off his jacket, threw it down behind him and rolled up his sleeves. “We can be a little more informal among friends,” he called out to the crowdpo … //

… Nuclear Disarmament Initiative:

Obama only went into specifics on the issue of nuclear disarmament, where he announced his initiative for a sharp reduction in strategic nuclear weapons. It fitted well with the setting — after all, he was standing on the frontline of the Cold War. But one couldn’t help shrugging one’s shoulders at it. After all, the nuclear arsenals of the US and Russia don’t pose the most pressing threat to world security anymore. And his initiative may peter out anyway. Russian was quick to pour cold water on it. But Obama won’t mind. He made his announcement — apart from that, this day was all about conveying the right symbolism and atmosphere.

On Wednesday morning, he put his arm around German President Joachim Gauck. The pupils of the Berlin’s John F. Kennedy international school were delighted when he engaged in small talk with them. “Hey guys,” he greeted them. “How are you?” and “Good to see you.”

“It was simply great,” said 12-year-old Sean, and his friend Harun next to him couldn’t stop beaming. Gauck was also impressed by the visitor. The two presidents had a very open conversation, with Obama explaining the Prism program rather than just brushing aside any objections to it.

Later on, it was the same story with Chancellor Angela Merkel. When he held a joint news conference with her at midday, he wouldn’t stop talking. He spent minutes giving elaborate reassurances that ordinary emails weren’t being sifted through, and that encroachments on privacy were all limited by court-approved processes. But he also nodded politely when Merkel said there was a need for “proportionality and balance.”

Exhaustion in the Evening: … //

… (full text).

(… The President’s Visit /Map: The Obamas’ Itinerary in Berlin: Barack Obama will be in Berlin for a total of 25 hours during his first visit to the German capital as US president. The following map shows the sites on the itinerary for the president and First Lady Michelle Obama. Nine Stops in around 25 Hours).

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