Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks to Participants in the Yale University-Moscow State University Exchange Project

October 03, 1988

The President. Well, it's a pleasure to greet such an impressive group of U.S. and Soviet young people. I hope those of you from Moscow are enjoying your visit to the United States and that you are finding it an exciting as well as an educational experience. I had only 5 days in Moscow this summer, but my visit to your university was a highlight I'll always remember.

And it's great to see those of you here from Yale. I also had an opportunity a few years back, to visit your campus as a Chubb fellow. It's a warm memory, particularly when contrasted with some of my visits to other campuses back in the 1960's, which were, shall we say, even warmer. [Laughter] But that's all history, and we don't want to give our Soviet friends the wrong impression.

But perhaps some of you have already told your Russian friends that Yale was founded 75 years before our Republic was. And its motto, "Lux et veritas," sprang from a belief by Yale's founders that not only the pursuit of knowledge but also the spiritual insights of religion were an important part of education. That's why Yale added "lux" on to Harvard's motto, which was simply "veritas." And they've been trying to lick Harvard ever since. [Laughter]

And so, I'm delighted this exchange could be taking place between two such important centers of learning in the world. Believe me, having Yale and Moscow State University students here today fulfills a longstanding goal of this administration and a personal wish of mine. Some of you may remember what I said to the Nation before I left for that first summit with General Secretary Gorbachev in Geneva: that if Soviet youth could attend American schools and universities they could learn firsthand the spirit of freedom that rules our land and understand fully that we do not wish the people of the Soviet Union any harm.

And if American youth could make similar visits, they would gain firsthand knowledge of life in the U.S.S.R. and, most important, a better realization that we're all God's children and, all of us, brothers and sisters in peace. Everything that's happened since then convinces me we were right about this. In the 3 years since Geneva, where we concluded a new exchange agreement, we've had an explosion of people-to-people contacts. American musicians and farmers and baseball players visit the U.S.S.R., and Soviet musicians and farmers and hockey players visit America.

Less than 2 weeks ago, more than 200 Americans from all walks of life spent 5 days mingling and interacting with Soviet citizens in Tbilisi. Youth exchanges have blossomed more than any others. The university pairing program, from which your project was the model, now includes some 20 pairs of universities. And last week in Moscow, we reached an agreement to begin a high school pairing project that will enable even younger Soviets and Americans to visit and experience each others' countries.

Perhaps some of you who heard me speak at Moscow State University on May 31st may recall what I said then: that as important as these people-to-people exchanges are, they still require official interference or coordination. Nothing would please me more than to see official sanctions become unnecessary, to see travel between East and West become so routine that Soviet university students could take a month off in the summer, put packs on their backs, and like so many American students do, travel from country to country in Europe or North America with only a passport check in between. Today this is a dream, but it's not an impossible dream. It's a dream for your generation to seize upon and transform into reality.

Well, in any case, it's wonderful to see all of you here today. And I can look at you, and I can't tell which are which. Last week at the United Nations I noted the strides that have been made by that organization in addressing such concerns as human rights and regional conflicts. And I think exchanges such as this can assist dramatically in that same process, and I want all of you to know how much we're pulling for the success of this program.

And by the way, I've heard that Mark Twain is a very popular writer in the Soviet Union. And I am reminded he once said, "It is better to be a young June bug than an old bird of paradise." Well, you young June bugs are getting together, and frankly, some of us older birds think that's just fine. So, welcome to the White House, God bless all of you. And now I understand that you have chosen two, Dimitri and Alex, to say a few words.

Mr. Ptchelintsev. Mr. President, we have brought with us our best recollections about your recent visit to Moscow and about our experience of listening to you personally when you spoke before our students in the university. And we are very glad to observe the improvement in relations between our countries, and on our part, we pledge to do our best to maintain this positive process in our relations. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. Well, that's very good to hear. Thank you.

Mr. Ptchelintsev. Thank you.

The President. Alex?

Mr. Mishkin. Mr. President, on behalf of Yale University, all the students there, and students around the country, I'd like to thank you personally for what you've done to improve relations between our country and the Soviet Union. And I think that on cultural exchanges such as these, all of us have collected memories that we will treasure for the rest of our lives. And finally, if you are ever in the area of New Haven, you are certainly more than welcome to come back to Yale. [Laughter]

The President. All right. Well, thank you. And again, I must leave and go back to work. But I just want to tell all of you here—I've said repeatedly, and you can all be missionaries with regard to the experience that you've all had among your colleagues and the other young people in each of our countries—and that is, I've said if all the young people of the world could get to know each other, there'd never be another war. So, carry on, and God bless all of you. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:55 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. Dimitri Ptchelintsev and Alexander Mishkin were participants in the exchange project.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks to Participants in the Yale University-Moscow State University Exchange Project Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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