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Remarks at a State Dinner Honoring Prime Minister Jean Chretien of Canada

April 08, 1997

Prime Minister and Mrs. Chretien, Ambassador and Mrs. Chretien, distinguished Canadian guests and my fellow Americans: It has been a real honor for me to welcome the Prime Minister and Mrs. Chretien to Washington and to do our best to return the warm hospitality that Hillary and I received in Ottawa 2 years ago.

The whole state visit has gone exactly as planned, except we didn't get to play golf. [Laughter] Now, the last time the Prime Minister and I played, we played exactly to a tie. The press corps had a field day trying to figure out how long it took the Ambassadors to negotiate that result. [Laughter] But we wanted to give some truly symbolic, ego-overriding manifestation of the equal partnership between the United States and Canada.

From the start of his career in public life— and for those of you who were not here earlier, Jean Chretien was elected to Parliament at the age of 29, exactly 34 years ago today. Throughout those years, he has brought passion and compassion to every endeavor. He has held almost every post in the Canadian Government at one time or another. As I said in Ottawa when I first read his resume, I wondered why he couldn't hold a job. [Laughter] Now as Prime Minister, he seems to be doing impressively well at that, leading his nation's remarkable economic success: his deficit down to balance this year, the lowest interest rates in four decades, growth rates near the top of those of the industrialized nations.

Under his leadership, relations between our two nations are stronger and better than ever. Of course, close neighbors sometimes disagree. Family members sometimes disagree. But united by democratic values and our long border and rich friendship, we've always found a way to work through those disagreements with patience and mutual respect, even back in the War of 1812 when, as Ambassador Chretien admitted tonight when I showed him the burn marks that are still on the White House from that war, our people were officially on opposite sides. Nonetheless, the residents of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, actually lent gunpowder to their neighbors across the river in Calais, Maine, so they could celebrate the Fourth of July.

Our relationship works. We measure its merit in the difference it makes in the daily lives of Americans and Canadians. Today we've worked to strengthen our law enforcement cooperation to protect our most vulnerable citizens. We've taken new action to protect our environment and the environment especially of the Great Lakes our two nations are blessed to share.

We've made it even simpler to cross the borders so neighbors can visit each other with greater ease and traffic jams become a thing of the past. We've set our sights on new horizons in space. I thank the people of Canada for providing the special purpose dexterous manipulator, otherwise known as the Canada Hand—[laughter]—for the international space station. This 11-foot machine is so precise, it can pick up an egg without breaking it. And now, Mr. Prime Minister, if you could supply us sometime in the very near future a "Canada knee," I for one would be very grateful. [Laughter]

The Canada Hand is practical, sophisticated, smart, and strong. Therefore, it is a fitting symbol of the helping hand the people of Canada have always extended to the world. From the days you helped runaway slaves to freedom to the battles we've fought together in Europe, Korea, and the Persian Gulf in this century, to the hope your sons and daughters represent to the people of Bosnia and Haiti, Canada stands for the best of humanity. And every day, Canada leads by example.

Prime Minister and Mrs. Chretien, we are proud to honor the great and good partnership between our nations. And let me also say on a personal note, I thank you for your friendship to Hillary and me, and we applaud your own remarkable partnership as you celebrate your 40th wedding anniversary this year.

To you both, to your nation, to the people of Canada, long live our mutual friendship. Vive la Canada. I ask you to join me in a toast to the Prime Minister and Mrs. Chretien.

[At this point, the President offered a toast.]

Mr. Prime Minister.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:27 p.m. in the State Floor at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Chretien's wife, Aline; and Raymond Chretien, Canadian Ambassador to the United States, and his wife, Kay.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a State Dinner Honoring Prime Minister Jean Chretien of Canada Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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