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Remarks at the State Dinner Honoring King Juan Carlos I of Spain

February 23, 2000

Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome His Majesty King Juan Carlos and Majesty Queen Sofia; members of the Spanish delegation; to all the rest of you. It is a great honor in this house of the American people to welcome a King and Queen who are truly of their people.

Your Majesties, on behalf of all Americans, let me begin by expressing my condolences to the families of the two victims of yesterday's car bombing in northern Spain. We stand with Spain in condemning this cowardly act and call on those responsible to renounce the violence and terrorism which have taken too many innocent lives in recent years. In a democracy, we must settle our differences through dialog, not destruction.

One of the greatest pleasures of the last 7 years has been the opportunity that Hillary and I have had on many occasions to be with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. Five years ago, I welcomed them to the White House on the occasion of their son's graduation from my alma mater, the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. On that day, the King and Queen also received honorary doctorates.

The King joked that day that the reason the university had given him the degree was that if his son started bragging about his masters, he could always say, "Yes, but I am a doctor." [Laughter]

Two years later, the King and Queen hosted Hillary, Chelsea, and me just a few weeks after Chelsea graduated from high school. For me, it was the fulfillment of a long dream. When I was a young graduate student, more than 30 years ago, I first went to Spain in the spring of 1969. I went to Granada to visit the Alhambra. I never got over it, and I promised myself that one day, somehow, I would return. Well, thanks to the King and Queen, I was once again able to see the Sun set over the plains of Granada, in a style slightly better than that which I enjoyed as a graduate student. [Laughter]

It is a special honor for us to have the King and the Queen here today on the anniversary of the day in which the courage of the King literally saved democracy for Spain.

Our friendship is just the latest chapter in a long history of friendship between our two nations. Five centuries ago, the vision of Queen Isabella guided sailors across vast oceans to discover a new world. The Spanish of that day left their language, their religion, and much of their culture on these shores. The State in which I was born once was part of the Spanish Empire. And I suppose, Your Majesties, I am, in a sense, one of your subjects. [Laughter]

Today, five centuries later, Christopher Columbus is the only foreign citizen America honors with a national holiday. For some time now, Spanish has been our second most spoken language, and all across America, Spanish-speaking men and women, many of whom are here tonight, enrich our Nation and our lives. Today, five centuries after Spain helped to lead the world through the age of exploration, it is the vision of a direct descendant of Queen Isabella, His Majesty King Juan Carlos, who is helping to lead this new world through a new age of information.

Spain is spreading the values of democracy, respect for human rights, and free markets across the globe, from Latin America to the Balkans, Europe to the Middle East. Your Majesties, we are proud in America to be your partners, your allies, and your friends.

Saint Isidore once wrote, "Spain is the most beautiful of all the lands extending from the West to India, for through her, East and West receive light." Today, may the light of our friendship continue to inspire and enlighten nations from East to West as we work to build a world that is more democratic, more open, more free, and at peace.

I ask you all to join me in a toast to the King and Queen of Spain and the people of their wonderful country.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:45 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Queen Sofia, wife of King Juan Carlos I, and their son, Crown Prince Felipe; and Spanish politician Fernando Buesa and his bodyguard Jorge Díez, who were killed in a car bomb explosion on February 23. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of the King.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the State Dinner Honoring King Juan Carlos I of Spain Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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