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Radio Address to the Nation on the Tricentennial Anniversary Year of German Settlement in America

June 25, 1983

Saturday, June 25th, is a special day for Germany and America. In the city of Krefeld, on the shore of the Rhine, Vice President Bush represented all Americans at an historic celebration. It was from Krefeld that, 300 years ago, the first German immigrants left for America. Those 13 Mennonite families came in search of religious freedom. They landed in Philadelphia and founded Germantown, Pennsylvania. From that moment on, Germany has contributed much to our way of life.

Today, about one in four Americans—or some 50 million of us—claim at least partial German ancestry. What has this meant to America? Well, the Conestoga wagon, the Kentucky rifle, blue jeans, the Brooklyn Bridge, and "Snoopy"; the first air-tight tin can, and many of our favorite beers; Dwight David Eisenhower and Wernher von Braun; Chrysler automobiles and Boeing aircraft. German farmers introduced winter wheat to our Middle West.

And no American should forget that at Valley Forge, General von Steuben, a German volunteer, turned George Washington's demoralized troops into a disciplined fighting force capable of winning our struggle for independence.

Some of our most brilliant writers like John Steinbeck and H. L. Mencken, athletes such as Babe Ruth and Johnny Weissmuller, inventors like Charles Steinmetz and George Westinghouse, statesmen such as Carl Schurz and George Shultz, our current Secretary of State, share German descent.

For 300 years Germans have helped to build America. But America has given as well as received. After the Second World War, when Germany lay defeated, America gave material help through the Marshall plan and the Berlin airlift. Just as significant, if not more, we provided the inspiration to develop free institutions from the ruins of totalitarianism.

Today, the Federal Republic is a bulwark of democracy in the heart of a divided Europe. It enjoys prosperity undreamt of in 1945, and its political system is stable and strong.

West Germans and Americans are rightfully proud of our common values as well as our shared heritage. Today we stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the NATO alliance, defending freedom and preserving the peace. For three decades the German-American partnership has been a linchpin of the alliance. Thanks to it, a whole generation has grown up in Western Europe free from the ravages of war and spared from the repression suffered by Europeans to the East.

But with freedom comes responsibility, not least the responsibility to look beyond simplistic slogans to the truth on vital matters like security and arms reductions. I hope the younger generation, both in Germany and in America, will honestly consider all that we're doing to deter and to reduce the risks of war.

In the face of a large Soviet military buildup of both conventional and nuclear weapons, the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany, and our European allies have agreed to modernize our aging forces to assure an effective deterrent.

At the same time, in hopes of averting the large expenditure to modernize weapons, we're making a serious effort to negotiate major and effectively verifiable reductions of Soviet and American nuclear forces to lower and more stable levels.

In Geneva we've made far-reaching proposals to reduce nuclear arsenals and to build trust. We have proposed the global elimination of the entire class of intermediate-range land-based missiles and expressed our willingness to agree to any proposal equalizing the number of warheads on such U.S. and Soviet missiles.

In the strategic arms reduction talks, which we call START, I have within the last 2 weeks issued new instructions, incorporating the recommendations of the bipartisan Scowcroft commission and giving our negotiator greater flexibility in their task.

The young people of Germany and the United States should not doubt our dedication to maintaining the peace. We share with them the dream that someday the time will come when no nuclear weapons will exist anywhere on Earth.

The ideals shared by our peoples, the desire for freedom and peace, bind the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany in so many ways. Building on this, we've launched a joint effort to provide more contacts between our nations and generations. In our country 22 Federal departments and agencies are participating in this effort. Plans range from traditional exchanges to an airlift program which will bring German heart patients to one of our outstanding hospitals for bypass surgery and train more German doctors to perform these life-saving operations.

This fall, a German will fly in NASA's space shuttle—the first foreigner to do so. Together, Germans and Americans will watch the flight's progress on their television screens, all praying for a successful mission and safe landing.

Germans and Americans of German descent can take special pride in their ancestry. But all Americans have benefited from the contributions which German Americans have made to our country, and we should all participate in honoring this heritage.

Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:13 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.

On January 20 the President signed Proclamation 5014, proclaiming 1983 as the Tricentennial Anniversary Year of German Settlement in America.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on the Tricentennial Anniversary Year of German Settlement in America Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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