Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at a Luncheon at Parliament House in Canberra

November 20, 1996

Thank you very much. Prime Minister and Mrs. Howard, Mr. Speaker and Mrs. Halverson, Madam President, Mr. Reid, Mr. Beazley, Ms. Annus, Ambassador McCarthy: Let me say that Hillary and I and all of us in our delegation have very much looked forward to coming here. So far, our experiences have even exceeded our hopes. We have loved every minute of it. I loved the crowds welcoming us in last night. I think I like Mr. Beazley reminding me that I'm the first Southern Democrat since Appomattox to be elected twice. But I'll have to wait until I get home to see how that plays at home. [Laughter]

We're grateful to be here in Canberra, where there is clearly a touch of America in the planning of Walter Burley Griffin, who came from Hillary's home State of Illinois. We feel very much that we are at home and among friends.

This morning I had a good meeting with the Prime Minister. I was honored to meet your Cabinet. I was honored to reaffirm our remarkable security relationship, to review our common efforts to reduce the danger of weapons of mass destruction, an effort in which Australian leadership has been so vital.

We're working to provide peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region together. And together we're going to make a big difference in building the prosperity of tomorrow, increasing the ties of trade and investment not only between our two nations but throughout the area.

The scope and depth of our cooperation for a long time now is truly extraordinary but not surprising. It is the hallmark of a relationship between two democracies that has grown through struggles of five wars and a whole century's hard labors of peace. Half a world of oceans separates us, but the currents of friendship and commerce and culture flow constantly between our shores, and they are more binding than the land bridges that connected the continents eons ago.

We have always looked to Australia with great hope, with great trust, with great admiration. We see those expectations from what may be the very first official United States act dealing with Australia. In 1779, Benjamin Franklin issued an unusual passport for Captain Cook who was then returning from one of his explorations here in the South Pacific. That was, of course, during our War of Independence. And Franklin sent special orders to the commanders of all American ships not to attack the ships of the British captain but to treat him and his crew with all civility and kindness. He wrote that Cook's explorations would facilitate communication between distant nations to the benefit of mankind in general.

Franklin was a prophet. From our common struggle in five wars to the trade we have created, to our shared efforts to reduce the nuclear threat, the bonds between our distant nations have indeed been an immense benefit not only to ourselves but to mankind in general. The United States is profoundly grateful for this relationship, for the affection and the warmth that has grown between our citizens.

For many reasons our ties have grown. One of the most important is that we see in each other qualities that we prize and hope for in ourselves. We admire in each other the pioneering spirit that our forebears brought to the tasks of pushing back the frontiers and building nations.

As we move into a new century, we face new and very different frontiers. We are called upon not to homestead in the wilderness but to build for the security and the prosperity of a new era, to deal with the challenges of this new explosion in the global economy and information technology and the diversity within all of our own societies. But we still need that frontier spirit. We still need to believe that with courage and vision and daring and a firm adherence to our shared and unshakable values, we can make the future better than the present and leave a world worthy of our children and our heritage.

I want all of you to know how very much we Americans like and admire and value Australia and her people. We want the 21st century to be a large partnership between ourselves for the betterment of all of humankind. I believe that we are entering the era of greatest possibility in human history. I believe there will be more people able to live out their dreams than any time in all of human existence if the values, the record, the partnership we have established can chart the way to the future we long to build. And I promise you that we in the United States will do our best to be worthy of our friendship and that kind of future.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:25 p.m. in the Great Hall. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Howard's wife, Janette; Speaker of the House Bob Halverson and his wife, Maggie; President of the Senate Margaret Reid and her husband, Thomas; Opposition Leader Kim Beazley and his wife, Suzie Annus; and Australian Ambassador to the United States John McCarthy.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Luncheon at Parliament House in Canberra Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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