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Remarks at a Luncheon Hosted by King Harald V of Norway in Oslo

November 01, 1999

I must say, Your Majesty, that is a much more elegant fanfare than I normally get before I speak. [Laughter] Thank you for hosting me and all of our American company here. To both of you, we are honored to be in your presence. And I am deeply honored to be the first sitting American President to visit your wonderful country.

The United States and Norway are allies and friends. Our friendship is rooted, of course, in our common shared interests and our common shared values; also, a remarkable textured, shared history. Vikings from these shores were among the first Europeans to walk the shores of North America. Since July 4th, 1825, when the first Norwegian ship sailed for the United States, millions of Norwegians seeking freedom and opportunity have, as His Majesty has noted, contributed immensely to our society.

I think it's worth noting a few of them, for their descendants include many luminaries from our past and present: national leaders from Congressman Sabo's home State, like Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey; great jurists like the late Chief Justice Earl Warren; great thinkers like Thorstein Veblen; giants of entertainment like Jimmy Cagney; sports heroes like Knute Rockne; and, of course, Secretary Albright's predecessor, Warren Christopher.

Today, there are almost as many people, perhaps even more people of Norwegian descent in the United States than in Norway. So, most of all, I suppose I should be here, simply thanking you for the precious gift of your people.

Our two nations have also shared the history of some of the darkest days of this century when the royal family, as the King has said, spent the years of the war living in the United States, including several weeks in the White House. I must say one of the most interesting experiences I have had as President in my entire tenure was having the opportunity to welcome you back to the White House, where you were as a small boy. I hope someday someone will welcome me back in that fashion—[laughter]—but I won't have quite the memories you do.

President Roosevelt's last formal statement, just 3 days before his death, was a statement in praise of the people of Norway and the people of Denmark for their courage during the occupation. The King said that he remembered standing behind President Roosevelt during his fourth inauguration. At the time, the war was still going on. The President was not feeling well, and so, at the insistence of his advisers, he agreed to be inaugurated actually inside the White House. It is the only time in the entire history of our country that a President was inaugurated in the White House. Lucky enough for us, it enabled a young man to stand behind him, and to carry a memory for more than half a century.

In President Roosevelt's fourth inaugural address, he summed up the lessons learned from the war. He said this: "We have learned that we cannot live alone at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We have learned that, to be citizens of the world, we have learned to be members of the human community. We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, the only way to have a friend is to be one."

Those words still ring true today, in the United States, in Norway, in the Middle East. Let us do all we can to remind all those in positions of influence, within our countries and beyond our borders, that we share a common destiny, and the only way to have a friend is to be one.

We also share an important history in the recent past, that I would be remiss if I did not comment upon briefly. In this decade, America and Norway have stood side by side as allies and friends to fight ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, to prevent the spread of dangerous weapons, to promote human rights, and of course, to build peace in the Middle East. That is our focus this week. And again I thank our Norwegian hosts for all they have done to make the talks that we will have today and tomorrow possible.

Once, Franklin Roosevelt said that any nation seeking to resist tyranny and build democracy need only, and I quote, "look to Norway." It remains just as true today. Free people still look to Norway and will always do so.

Your Majesty, I am grateful for all you have done to keep our friendship strong, to prepare our kindred nations for a new century and a new millennium, when we will have some more shared history based on our shared values.

I ask all of you now to join me in a toast to King Harald, to the Queen, to the people of Norway, and to our wonderful alliance.

NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 1:30 p.m. in the Banquet Room at the Royal Palace. In his remarks, he referred to Queen Sonja of Norway. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of King Harald V.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Luncheon Hosted by King Harald V of Norway in Oslo Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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