Senator Barack Obama waves to the crowd after making a speech in front of the Victory Column in Berlin, July 24, 2008.
Tobias Schwarz / Courtesy Reuters

Even now, gazing back through the jaundiced lens of subsequent experience, Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign speech in Berlin still seems an extraordinary occasion. Tens of thousands of mostly young Germans gathered in the center of the city to listen to the American presidential candidate, in an atmosphere The Guardian described as “a pop festival, a summer gathering of peace, love—and loathing of George Bush.” Streets were closed for the occasion. Bands played to warm up the crowd.

When he spoke, Obama said just what the Germans, and so many other Europeans, wanted to hear. He reaffirmed the United States’

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