08/05/2013 06:02 pm ET Updated Oct 05, 2013

Brandenburg Gate Revitalized

For years, my memories of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate were of an eerie no-man's land in the middle of the Berlin Wall, with guardhouses and tank barriers and the sad thought of frustrated and wasted lives trapped on the other side, with little reason to hope. Kennedy's "I am a Berliner," Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," and a rising tide of people power all combined to change history. Today, every time I come to this symbol of a united Berlin, I find a festive, almost carnival atmosphere. On this visit, it was a celebration of fifty years of French-German friendship, and the French police band was sounding great.