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North Atlantic Alliance Summit Toasts of the President and Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit at the Dinner Honoring the Heads of Delegation.

May 30, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. First of all, I'd like to say that we are delighted to have you here. This is our first dinner, or supper, in the Rose Garden, and it's worked out very well. This is kind of a test of NATO's influence with the weather. [Laughter]

I would like to say, too, before anyone gets the wrong impression about our military commitment and our strength, although these representatives of our military bands can play the violin very beautifully, they also know how to fight. So we are good, staunch allies there.

I've enjoyed very much being with our President this evening, Prime Minister Ecevit. I've learned a lot about politics from him. We have several very distinguished Members of the Congress here, and I called one over to meet him tonight, Senator Bob Morgan from North Carolina. And when he came over, Prime Minister Ecevit told him that he used to live in North Carolina and worked for the Winston-Salem newspaper, and he said, "I've even got Tar Heel cuff links on." So he's taught me a great deal.

This is a wonderful occasion for us. Very seldom in the history of our Nation and very seldom in the history of the White House, which has been here since 1801—except for a brief interlude when some of Jim Callaghan's 1 people got here in 1812— [laughter] —have we had such a delightful and distinguished group of guests.

1 Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

As a matter of fact, you're not exactly guests, because you're partners of ours in one of the finest and most noble endeavors in the history of the United States of America. We are proud of our relationship. Yesterday was Memorial Day, and throughout our country we paused to recognize the tremendous contribution in past years of men and women who have given their lives and offered their lives in the defense of our Nation, what it stands for, our principles, our ideals. And it's a great reminder of what NATO has meant to us, too.

We know what can be the price of preserving precious ideals. We know the value of a partnership formed in a time of danger, a time of war. We know the value of strong and able and deeply committed allies. And this is what NATO means to us.

For 30 years now, almost 30 years, the strength of NATO has permitted democracy and freedom to flourish. And it's with a great gratitude and a sense of common commitment and common purpose that we've gathered here for these 2 days of deliberations.

This Alliance has guaranteed our own security here in the United States, and it's been of great value to us. It's one of the things that we cherish most highly. For us, therefore, it has been a matter of necessity to be a partner with you in the North American (Atlantic)2 Alliance, and it's also been a fulfillment of what to us has been in the past, and still is, a moral obligation.

2 Printed in the transcript.

We learned, during two great wars in this century, some profound and unforgettable lessons: that through strength can come peace, and that in awareness of a common resolution among free men and women there can be a conviction of potential adversaries that is better for mutual respect and the preservation of peace.

We want a strong defense. We've assured that. We want a general commitment to peace and mutual disarmament. And both those elements of our desires can be guaranteed only through the accurate image of a capable and deep commitment to mutual strength.

I think the United States is particularly well qualified to be the host of NATO, the members of the North American (Atlantic) Alliance. We are not only your friends but we're your kinfolks, we're your relatives. Throughout our country there are tens of millions of people who look upon your countries as their second homeland. And it would be impressive to you if you could have shared the 2 years of campaign experience that I enjoyed around this Nation—or rather that I experienced around this Nation— [laughter] —to witness the deep sense of pride and a desire to protect the heritage that Americans share with their relatives in your own home countries. So, that, I think, qualifies us to be the host for this notable occasion.

In a few minutes we'll leave here and go down on the front lawn to witness again one of the great ballet performances available throughout the world. And the heritage of common beliefs, common ideals, and also common culture and enjoyment, is what we enjoy from the older countries in the European area. We feel that we share a common commitment to democracy, we share a common commitment to liberty, we share a common commitment to the rule of law. So, I would like to propose a toast on behalf of the people of the United States of America to the people whom you represent as our allies in Canada and in the European area, to the North American (Atlantic) Alliance, the guardian of safety, the servant of freedom, and the instrument of peace.

THE PRIME MINISTER. Allow me, Mr. President, to say a few words as Honorary President.

I wish to thank you in the name of all my colleagues and my wife. I wish to thank you, Mr. President and Mrs. Carter, for being such nice hosts to us this evening in this family atmosphere which made us feel really in the heart of America. We have had a very interesting session, or rather, sessions today in the NATO Council meeting in the true spirit of democracy, where everything, every idea was expressed and criticized freely in the search for a better way of life.

The North Atlantic Treaty community consists of nations who are all attached to the ideal of democracy, who all have great respect for human freedom and for human rights. There may be problems within the Alliance; in fact, there are problems within the Alliance that we have spoken about today. There may even at times be differences between some members of the Alliance, as in fact there are to some extent today. But I think there is a bond that will survive all such differences in NATO, and that is the attachment of our peoples to democracy and to freedom.

We are living in a rapidly changing time. And for institutions to survive such change, they must also learn to change themselves. They must not only be able to adapt to change but be agents of change themselves. And democratic communities can do that particularly easily, because one important characteristic of democracy, in my mind, beyond its capacity for freedom, free thought, and free expression, is the propensity for self-criticism, for self-questioning.

It is through self-questioning and through constantly questioning one's ideas, one's concepts, that mankind may make progress and has made progress, particularly in the way of science, and through such democratic self-criticism and self-questioning, that I'm sure we can find the best solutions to the North Atlantic Alliance as well.

NATO is a military organization. However, we are living in an age when battles are being given in nonmilitary areas as well, and through nonmilitary means as well. In ore' age, battles are mostly given for the minds of people, not with weapons, usually, but with ideas and ideologies. And I think the democratic countries are best equipped to such battles if they can use their merits well and in a conscious way, because democratic countries believe in the dignity of man and are based on respect and on belief for the creativity of man.

For this reason, that is, because of my conviction in the superiority of democracy and freedom, I also believe that NATO will survive all its problems and even in this rapidly changing world will still perform its functions.

I wish to thank you again, Mr. President, for being host to our meeting in Washington. And allow me to thank, also, the experienced and distinguished Secretary General, Mr. Luns, who has helped to make this meeting, our sessions today, very lively, by forcing us to enter into a democratic debate in many sensitive subjects. And I think they have been very useful debates.

I would like to ask your permission to wish you and Mrs. Carter and all your children and family every happiness. And I wish all my colleagues here, all our American friends, and all the peoples of the member countries of NATO, every happiness and success.

Note: The President spoke at 9:47 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, North Atlantic Alliance Summit Toasts of the President and Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit at the Dinner Honoring the Heads of Delegation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/245155

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