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Remarks of the President and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany Following Their Meetings

November 15, 1982

The President. Chancellor Kohl and I have just concluded a series of conversations that covered a wide range of politics and security and economic issues of mutual interest to our countries. We agreed on-close consultations are necessary, as in the past, and we fully intend to stay in close touch.

I would like to take this opportunity to announce, as part of our initiative to increase contacts between the German and American peoples, a high-level commission for the United States and German tricentennial has been formed. And this group will coordinate the many activities celebrating the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the first German settlers in America at Germantown, Pennsylvania. And Chancellor Kohl and I have just met with several distinguished Americans, who are standing behind us now, who have agreed to help in this effort. We'll be closely following their progress.

In 1983 we will commemorate innumerable contributions made to American society by our fellow citizens of German descent, including our Secretary of State Shultz, whose forebears came from southwest Germany. Events to celebrate the anniversary are planned by many communities in both countries. The commission will represent me throughout the commemorative, and it will be chaired by the former national secretary of—and of our National Security Council, Richard Allen; Charles Wick, head of the United States Information Agency; Chief Justice Warren Burger; and other distinguished Americans who have agreed to play a part.

One of the high points of the celebration will take place in Philadelphia in October '83 at a gala banquet, which both President Carstens of the Federal Republic of Germany and I hope to attend. And the United States Congress is marking the occasion. The Senate has passed, and there is now before the House, a joint resolution proclaiming 1983 as German-American Tricentennial Year.

I'm sure that the commemoration of the deep and lasting friendship between our two countries will be a great success. And again, let me just say, it's been a great pleasure to welcome Chancellor Kohl here to our country again.

The Chancellor. Mr. President, I consider it to be a most happy coincidence that today, on my first visit to the United States as Federal Chancellor, President Reagan has announced the appointment of a special commission on the tricentennial of German-American relations. What we will be commemorating together next year is not merely the immigration of 13 families from the German city of Krefeld. We will also be celebrating an intensive and fruitful relationship of give and take between Germany and America extending over three centuries.

You, Mr. President, have spoken of the Germans who have helped to build this great and free country. America, your country, has repaid that contribution many times over. I call to mind the catalog of human rights and freedoms embodied in your Bill of Rights. It served as a model for the first attempt to set up a free and democratic constitution in Germany in 1848 [1948]. In our present constitution, the basic law used that same catalog of fundamental rights as the foundation for our constitutional and legal system.

I recall that in the dark years of Germany's history, hundreds of thousands of Germans found refuge in America. I will mention only Carl Schurz, Walter Gropius, and Thomas Mann, and Albert Einstein, who represent so many more.

Following two great wars in which Germans and Americans were adversaries, we Germans came to experience the greatest virtue of the Americans—their generosity and their desire to help. In my remarks responding to your address of welcome, Mr. President, I referred to the fact that my generation remembers with gratitude the Hoover aid program and the CARE parcels, and without the Marshall plan, the speedy recovery of my country would not have been possible.

Today relations between our two countries are characterized by a wide variety of exchanges in the fields of culture, science, and research. Every German knows Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Thornton Wilder. And young people in our country read Susan Sontag, to name only a few.

Mr. President, members of the Presidential commission, let us make the past an obligation for the future for ourselves and for the next generation of our children and their children. This is our responsibility in these days.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:35 p.m. at the Diplomatic Entrance on the South Lawn of the White House. Chancellor Kohl spoke in German, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter..

Earlier in the day, the President and the Chancellor met in the Oval Office and attended a luncheon in the State Dining Room.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks of the President and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany Following Their Meetings Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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