On the 25th of June 2008 Mr Kempler’s Y12 history class set off to the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie to listen to a speech held for the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. Charles C.Clay spoke to us about his grandfather General Lucius D.Clay, the U.S. presidential elections of 1948 and the U.S. presidential elections of 2008. Alexandra Hildebrandt, a member of the Board of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum moderated the event and an interpreter was also present. Amongst the audience were even eyewitnesses of the Berlin Airlift.
Since Charles Clay was already 29 when his grandfather died, the account given of him was not as vague as I had imagined. Lucius D. Clay is seen as the father of the Berlin Airlift (1948-49), since he ordered and maintained it. It was therefore an honour to be able to listen to someone who knew him so well.
Charles Clay described his grandfather as being a workaholic and a very tough man. He was not necessarily popular amongst his peers but was a great decision-maker and a loving grandfather. He was a man who ‘only knew one speed on the motor boat, the highest’.
Charles Clay went on to point out similarities between the U.S. presidential election in 1948 and 2008. He stated that in both cases it was a choice between security and freedom. In the upcoming elections, Obama represents freedom whereas McCain represents security. However, Clay emphasised the fact that there are no fundamental political differences between political parties in the U.S..
Throughout the speech, many terms fell which our class had just been focusing on. When the phrase ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ came up, it was inevitable that everyone from my class immediately thought of the Declaration of Independence, since we had been studying the American Revolution that semester.
At the end, there was a question and answer session, in which quite a few of the audience in the full lecture-room voiced there opinions on the oncoming election. It was definitely a very worth-while trip and a great experience!