Citizens of the World - Celebrating the 60th anniversary of JFK's programmatic speech at FU Berlin

FUB 75 years © Regina Sablotny / FUB

In June 1963, President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin. To commemorate this event, the university hosted the event “Citizens of the World. The Historical Roots and Future of Academic Freedom”.

2023 not only marks the 75th anniversary of Freie Universität Berlin’s founding, it is also the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s iconic speech on the university’s campus. The American president spoke about the outstanding importance of universities – especially students – for the future of the free world. Freie Universität Berlin, or any university, should “turn out citizens of the world” who put the skills they have acquired through university education at the service of a free society. Keeping in mind his idea of universities as incubators of freedom, a celebratory event at FUB, opening the institution’s International Week 2023, looked at issues of academic freedom from a historical perspective as well as within today’s contexts – and discussed ideas of academic freedom in the future.

More than three hundred guests from all over the world followed the keynote lecture on “The Historical Roots and the Future of Academic Freedom” by Prof. Dr. Anita Traninger, professor of Romance Studies at Freie Universität Berlin and 2023 winner of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize. Her talk was complemented by an introduction by the University’s president, Prof. Dr. Günter M. Ziegler, as well as a personal reflection by Prof. Dr. Dr. Conrado Hübner Mendes, professor of Constitutional Law at the Universidade de São Paulo, on “When Democracies Cease to Defend Academic Freedom.”

To listen to President John F. Kennedy`s speech at FUB in 1963, please visit the FUB website.