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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recalled for young Germans Tuesday when he snuck out of the American embassy in divided postwar Berlin at age 12 for a clandestine bicycle ride into the Soviet-controlled eastern part of the city.

Kerry told the story to a group of young people in a packed Internet cafe in Berlin as he defended U.S. freedom of speech laws, saying that ‘In America, you have a right to be stupid.’

‘As a 12-year-old, I saw the difference between the east and the west,’ said Kerry, who had lived in Berlin in 1950s with his family and American diplomat father. ‘I saw people were in darker clothing and there were fewer people in the street. There were fewer cars. I didn’t feel the movement and the energy that existed elsewhere.’

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