Professor Jeffrey Sachs in his new book, To Move the World: JFK's Quest for Peace, on the political and historical importance of the speech in context, says that Khrushchev regarded Kennedy's speech as the greatest by an American president since Franklin D Roosevelt.
JFK told his audience fifty years ago: “And above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy – or of a collective death-wish for the world."
Sachs judges that JFK’s speech spurred Khrushchev to clear away many long-standing obstacles to the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) , which was signed in Moscow just seven weeks after the Berlin speech, a remarkably short time to finalise complex diplomacy.
Of course, the treaty was described as “partial” because it limited the test ban to air, space, and underwater, but excluded a ban on underground tests.
Nevertheless, it was a cornerstone to further efforts to curb nuclear weapons, with later Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of July 1968 and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) signed on 10 September 1996, which finally outlawed subterranean test nuclear explosions.
President Obama said in Berlin“Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons -- no matter how distant that dream may be…”and added “we are also citizens of the world. And our faiths and fortunes are linked like never before. We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe." (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/19/remarks-president-obama-brandenburg-gate-berlin-germany)
I think it is clear Mr Obama has the will to rid the world of the nuclear threat; he must now find, as did JFK, the political means to achieve this.
The UK Coalition Government could do its bit by cancelling the replacement for Trident.