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Remarks at the State Dinner for President Roh Tae Woo of the Republic of Korea

July 02, 1991

President Bush. Mr. President, I felt that we achieved today a true meeting of the minds on many issues. And I understand in addition to meeting with me and the Cabinet, your busy schedule took you to separate meetings with the Secretaries of State and Defense, individually—I guess you'll see Dick Cheney tomorrow. But best of all, we finally had time, after all the planning and talking, to get you out on the White House tennis court. [Laughter] And I know there's an awful lot of interest in this, so I'm proud to report that the President and I won both matches. [Laughter]

Mr. President, many ties bind our nations: Our devotion to democratic ideals; the fact that Korea is now our seventh-largest trading partner; the many Americans of Korean ancestry, more than three-quarters of a million strong, who are making their mark in this country as entrepreneurs and athletes and in the arts and in our universities, indeed, in every walk of life. They make a marvelous contribution to America.

And today, Mr. President, our two countries, mine and yours, are partners in a common challenge. As free nations it falls to us to maintain peace, liberty, and prosperity for our peoples and for men and women everywhere.

And so, once again we welcome you, sir. And tonight I'd like to offer this toast to the Republic of Korea, staunch ally in war, steadfast partner in peace, and a valued member of the community of free nations. So, let us raise our glasses to President and Mrs. Roh, to the proud Republic of Korea, and to the lasting friendship between the people of Korea and the United States of America.

President Roh. Mr. President, this afternoon I received the most precious gift of my life, which I shall treasure. I'm of course referring to the very rare original edition of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates which you have so kindly secured for me. I'm all the more moved to discover the Lincoln portrait here at the State Dining Room.

Referring to common man, President Lincoln said that common men are the best kind, and that is why God created so many common men. To open a great era of common people was a slogan of my Presidential campaign, and it is still the motto of my government. When I decided the common people as my campaign theme, I of course did not have the foggiest idea that President Lincoln had already expounded on the subject. [Laughter] It was much later that I was told of this historical antecedent. You see, I now realize that I may have violated, however unwittingly, President Lincoln's intellectual property rights. [Laughter] Please believe me, it was not a case of willful violation on my part. [Laughter]

Your Excellency, President and Mrs. Bush; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen: I would like to extend my deep appreciation to you, Mr. President, for the kind invitation to visit your great country and for the warm welcome and generous hospitality accorded me and my delegation.

Through our meetings this morning, Mr. President, I can reaffirm that we are indeed living in a great era of change. In the span of only 2 to 3 years, the world has undergone revolutionary changes. In your Inaugural Address, Mr. President, you said, "a new breeze is blowing, and the world refreshed by freedom seems reborn." The world is indeed being reborn.

The Fourth of July this year will truly be a unique day in American history. For the first time in 215 years, the American people will he able to celebrate a worldwide realization of the founding ideals of the Declaration of Independence: namely that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights bestowed upon all man. On this occasion the entire Korean people who have been pursuing these common ideals join me in extending heartfelt congratulations to the American people.

The Gulf war victory has established that the international community will no longer tolerate wanton aggression and that the rule of law shall prevail in the international community. We are at an historical juncture toward establishing a new world order of freedom, justice, and peace. I salute you, Mr. President, for your courageous decisions and firm leadership and to the American people for their unflagging support for the cause of freedom.

Mr. President, it will be perhaps impossible today to separate American and Korean values and ideas in various aspects of Korean life, including the political, economic, educational, scientific, and cultural. In the course of developing such a strong bond between our two countries across the Pacific, many of your people rendered invaluable services and noble sacrifices. The Korean people shall never forget the enormous contributions made on our behalf

Even at this very moment, more than 40,000 American service men and women are on the other side of the Pacific on a vigil for peace on the Korean peninsula. You deserve to be proud that the Republic of Korea, which received so much encouragement and support from the United States, is now moving ahead toward a land of freedom and prosperity.

Today, Korea has entered an era of liberal democracy. Despite transitional difficulties, democracy in Korea is on course and is moving inexorably forward. Commensurate with its political, economic development, Korea is determined to assume appropriate roles and responsibilities in the international community. I believe that Korea and the United States should closely cooperate and encourage changes that will remove tension, instability, and the barrier which divides the Korea peninsula.

Mr. President, as valued partners, Korea and the United States together shall usher in a free, new, peaceful, and prosperous Pacific era in the 21st century. Our meeting today heralds this commitment to the Pacific and to the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a toast to the health of President and Mrs. Bush, to the ever-enduring prosperity of the United States of America, and to the lasting friendship between Korea and the United States. Thank you.

Note: President Bush spoke at 8:07 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. President Roh spoke in Korean, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George Bush, Remarks at the State Dinner for President Roh Tae Woo of the Republic of Korea Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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