Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks on Departure for Reykjavik, Iceland

October 09, 1986

Thank you all for coming to see us off. As you know, I'm off this morning on an important foreign policy mission, but before I make any remarks on that subject, the events of late yesterday compel me to discuss with you first the critical business of Congress and the budget resolutions. I have to say at this point that I cannot see need for further temporary extensions of the continuing resolution. Congress has had 8 months now to debate these issues and send us a budget. I've made it perfectly clear that what is necessary in order for me to sign a bill into law, and I've already signed two stopgap funding measures. This is no way to run our government, and the American people deserve better, much better.

On October 3 the United States Senate passed a generally acceptable appropriations bill for the fiscal year that began October 1. So, my message to the House is that I've had enough. I will not and cannot countenance any further delay in getting our budget done. Any more procrastination can only serve to undercut our mission.

I'm leaving today for Iceland for a meeting with General Secretary Gorbachev of the Soviet Union. This will be essentially a private meeting between the two of us. We will not have large staffs with us nor is it planned that we sign substantive agreements. We will, rather, review the subjects that we intend to pursue, with redoubled effort, afterward, looking toward a possible full-scale summit. We'll be talking frankly about the differences between our countries on the major issues on the East-West agenda: arms reduction, human rights, regional conflicts, and bilateral contacts. We'll be talking about how we can—while recognizing those differences—still take steps further to make progress on those items and to make the world safer and keep the peace.

Let me say here—and this is particularly fitting because this is Leif Erikson Day-how much the United States appreciates the hospitality on this occasion of the Icelandic Government and the people of Iceland. The United States and Iceland have been allies for more than 40 years—first, in the defense of freedom and democracy during World War II and, now, in working in NATO to defend peace and freedom and democracy. There can be no better testimony to the enduring commitment of the Icelandic people and Government to the search for a just peace, a lasting peace, than their gracious consent to host these meetings.

At Geneva last year, Mr. Gorbachev and I made a fresh start toward improving relations between our two countries. And when I look back on the success of Geneva, I find myself feeling the real credit belongs to the American people. I knew at every step that I had our nation's unified support. I knew that Americans of both parties had said that differences stopped at the water's edge. Last Saturday I asked again for unified national support as I head for a second meeting with the Soviet leader. And let me say now how much I appreciate the support that I have received over the years from the American people. Few things have been more gratifying or more important to our success. I'll need this same support through the negotiations of the coming year.

The world has never known a force as strong or decent as that of America when we're unified. Together we Americans settled this great continent that God put between two oceans for free men and women all over the world to find and cherish. Together we're transforming the world with our technology, making life longer with greater opportunities and more fulfilling for millions all over the Earth. And most of all, together we've led the forces of freedom around the world in this century. In World War II, and still today, we've been the great friend of mankind's dreams of freedom, whether in Europe or the Americas or Africa or Afghanistan. And together we can be true to the cause of freedom even while we're true to the cause of peace.

Last Tuesday, a group of human rights leaders reminded me of how important America's missions of both peace and freedom are. And among them was Yuriy Orlov, who was released only a week ago from Siberian exile where he was being kept for the crime of wanting his government to respect basic human rights. We didn't forget him, and we must never forget those like him. They're our inspiration, and we are their hope. So, we go to Reykjavik for peace. We go to this meeting for freedom, and we go in hope. As a great American who knew the extremes of hope and despair, Robert E. Lee, once said, "History teaches us to hope." Today we're making history, and we're turning the tide of history to peace and freedom and hope.

I've long believed that if we're to be successful in pursuing peace, we must face the tough issues directly and honestly and with hope. We cannot pretend the differences aren't there, seek to dash off a few quick agreements, and then give speeches about the spirit of Reykjavik. In fact, we have serious problems with the Soviet positions on a great many issues, and success is not guaranteed. But if Mr. Gorbachev comes to Iceland in a truly cooperative spirit, I think we can make some progress. And that's my goal, and that's my purpose in going to Iceland. The goals of the United States, peace and freedom throughout the world, are great goals; but like all things worth achieving, they are not easy to attain. Reykjavik can be a step, a useful step; and if we persevere, the goal of a better, safer world will someday be ours and all the world's.

So, again, thank you. God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:25 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks on Departure for Reykjavik, Iceland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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