Many Germans spent their dinner hour last night watching or listening to President Obama deliver his second inaugural address. We don't yet have the numbers, but precedent would suggest it was a very large crowd. When then-Senator Obama delivered a speech in 2008 against the dramatic backdrop of Berlin's golden Victory Column, he was himself the golden candidate -- more than 200,000 admiring fans turned out to see him, and, after election, his German approval ratings hovered around 93 percent. By the June 2012 Pew Research poll, that approval level had "plummeted"...to 87 percent.
The surveys have returned consistent data, and their findings are borne out in the German media. German editorial opinion can sometimes be sharp on specific policies -- with the underlying tone of a close friend who feels they have both the right and the obligation to point out to you the error of your ways -- but political, and, often, personal affection for the President here remains unwavering.
At an informal gathering at Ambassador Murphy's residence to watch the inaugural ceremonies on a snowy Monday evening, interest was sincere, and intense. Ambassador Murphy ran through five press interviews in 20 minutes and then joined several dozen guests for American finger food (onion rings and chocolate chip cookies) and political pageantry.
One journalist guest remarked approvingly on how the United States differed from Germany in its taste for public ceremony for political transitions, while others aahed as the television cameras panned over the crowd in Washington, revealing the size of the turnout. A few guests got into a lively discussion about what they liked about the Obama Administration -- its policy focus on issues like women's rights and the environment. One guest, a talk-show host, noted that focus on social issues resonated well with Germans, whose policy orientation was similarly inclined. Small good-natured debates about these sentiments broke out among the attendees. But then, suddenly, the President began speaking, and a rapt, happy silence fell over the crowded room.
You can read more about Berlin events and see pictures on our Facebook page.