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Remarks at a State Dinner in Moscow

May 09, 1995

President Yeltsin, President Mitterrand, Prime Minister Major, Chancellor Kohl, Mr. Secretary-General, ladies and gentlemen:

Tonight we gather to recall one victory and the countless millions of sacrifices that produced it. It is fitting for all of us that we recall that day here in Russia, where virtually every family had a loss to mourn and a hero to remember.

A crowded 50 years separates us today from that moment. Yet it is still near in so many ways, woven with the entire war into the living memory of our civilization. Each of us has been touched by that war, even those who were born after its end.

World War II left us lessons, not for an evening but for a lifetime. We would be remiss not to mention two of them tonight. The first is the extraordinary power of men and women who joined together to fight for a just cause. The heroism of those who confronted and defeated tyranny, the alliance of Soviets, British, French, Chinese, Canadians, Yugoslavs, Poles, Americans, and so many more will forever remind people of the strength that is found in common purpose.

It inspires us here today. One-time opponents are now valued and trusting friends. And with Russia's turn to democracy, the alliance for freedom stands on the verge of great new possibility. Together we can face vistas of promise which separately we could never even imagine. And together we can face the challenges to our humanity in this age: terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the continued lust for killing based on ethnic, religious, or tribal differences.

As we look to new horizons in the new century, let us remember also another lesson of the Great War, the resilience of hope. Our nations prevailed because they never lost hope. It is the touchstone of our humanity.

Let us renew that hope tonight. And let us remember the words of Olga Berggolts, the poet of the awful siege of Leningrad. She said, "Again from the black dust, from the place of death and ashes, will arise the garden as before. So it will be. I firmly believe in miracles." The resolve of her city, the perseverance of its people in the face of unspeakable horror, gave her that belief in miracles. Fortified by the wonders we have seen in just the last 6 years, that belief surely lives on with us today.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I propose a toast tonight to the heroism of 50 years ago; to the honor of the Russian people and the other Soviet peoples in the awful losses they suffered and what they gave to us; and most of all, to the hope that will carry us onward to miraculous new days ahead.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 7:31 p.m. in the Palace of Congresses at the Kremlin. In his remarks, he referred to United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a State Dinner in Moscow Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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