Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany

November 15, 1982

The President. Chancellor Kohl and Mrs. Kohl, on behalf of the American people, Nancy and I are honored and delighted to welcome you to Washington.

Before my visit to the Federal Republic of Germany earlier this year, Chancellor Kohl, who had not yet attained the high office he now holds, helped organize several rallies. He wanted to let us know that we were welcome and to reassure all Americans of the sincere good will of the German people. Chancellor Kohl, I appreciated very much that magnificent gesture. I understand that in Bonn, where some 75,000 people attended the rally, one of the banners read, "Say Something Good About America." Well, today it certainly makes all Americans happy to repay this compliment, because there are many good things to say about you, Mr. Chancellor, about the German people, and about the strong bond that unites us.

A recent study has revealed that today more Americans trace their ancestry to your country than to any other nation. German immigrants provided the hard work and determination that settled much of the Midwest, taking rugged frontier land like that in the Dakotas and reaping from it bountiful harvests that helped feed the world. In other industries, German energy and German ingenuity helped build the factories and firms that catapulted our standard of living and elevated the lot of the common man from a life of drudgery to new progress consistent with individual dignity and respect. But, as you are aware, Mr. Chancellor, it wasn't simply hard work that built America; it was freedom available here—freedom to which German immigrants greatly contributed.

One of the first precedents for freedom of press, for example, was established when Peter Zenger, a German immigrant, spoke out in his newspaper against the abuse of power by a public official. When the jury freed Zenger, they were laying freedom of press as a cornerstone of our democratic system.

In the middle of the 19th century, when turmoil was sweeping through Western Europe, we were the recipient of many political exiles who made significant contributions to American liberty. One of the most remarkable, Carl Schurz, was one of the original members of the Republican Party. Now, you see one reason why I personally am so grateful, Mr. Chancellor. [Laughter]

With us today to greet you is a group of young people from your country who are spending the autumn months living with American families in Virginia. They're part of our youth exchange project between our two countries, and these kinds of ties bode well for the future.

The future of both our nations depends so much on friendship and the values we share. In these uncertain times, when a power to the East has built a massive war machine far in excess of any legitimate defensive needs, the Western democracies must stand firmly together if our freedom and peace of the world are to be preserved.

The German people are on the front lines of freedom. When I was in your country a few months ago, I told your citizens, "You are not alone. We're with you." Well, today, Mr. Chancellor, I can tell you we're happy that the German people are with us. The Western democracies, the future freedom of mankind, and the peace of the world would be far less secure if it were not so.

Your personal commitment and that of your government to the needs of our alliance are well appreciated here, as is the depth which you add to the meaning of our covenant. In truth, as you recently observed, we are not a military alliance. The community of arms, you said, is there to defend the community of ideas. The important point is that we have common ideas regarding human rights, civil rights, our moral values, our moral laws.

I look forward to our talks today, as I would expect that a meeting of the leaders of the two great nations whose interests are so intertwined, there are many vital issues to discuss. As all good friends do, we will disagree at times, but in free societies we're accustomed to differences and also to a peaceful resolution to achieve our common goals.

As we stand here today, I am confident that our shared interests, our common vision of the future, and our joint commitment to human freedom will overcome any differences between our countries. Our governments will work in the closest consultation, in a spirit of amity and straightforwardness.

We thank you for coming, and in the name of the people of the United States, wilkommen.

The Chancellor. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, ladies and gentlemen:

I thank you, Mr. President, most warmly for the very kind words of welcome and for the warmhearted reception we have been given here.

On the 7th of April, 1953, almost 30 years ago, the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany stood here for the first time. And on that occasion, Konrad Adenauer said that we Germans are loyal partners on the road to freedom and peace, a road on which the United States is ahead of all other nations.

Mr. President, I want you and all citizens of the United States to know that these remarks by Chancellor Adenauer still hold true today and will do so in the future as well. The Federal Republic of Germany is and will remain a loyal partner of the United States of America.

Recent opinion polls have shown, once more, that in the Federal Republic of Germany there is wide-based, firm confidence in the Atlantic partnership. And to all Americans, therefore, I say today, most emphatically, you can count on your German friends. The North Atlantic Alliance and our friendship with the United States are the foundation of our active policy for safeguarding peace in freedom.

The real strength of our alliance does not derive solely from the number of troops and weapons. Our alliance is strong because the citizens of 16 North American and European countries have a common goal. They are determined to safeguard the freedom, the common heritage, and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law. This goal is laid down in the preamble to the North Atlantic Treaty.

We must constantly remind ourselves and, in particular, our young fellow citizens of these foundations of our equal partnership and of our deep friendship, because our shared fundamental convictions are the key to unity. And from unity ensues the strength to attain our goals: to safeguard peace and freedom through firmness and the readiness for negotiation, to ensure economic and social stability, and to cooperate fairly and constructively with the countries of the Third World.

Despite domestic changes in our countries and changes of government, eight American Presidents and six German Chancellors have contributed towards German-American partnership. For us Germans, gratitude, too, is an element of our friendship with America.

My generation, my wife and I, know from our experience that after terrible war, when we were still children and pupils and students, the Americans saved us not only from hunger—we have not forgotten what the Hoover aid program and what the Quaker aid program and the CARE parcel gifts action meant for us at that time—the Americans helped us to build a free state. And our Constitution, especially the Catalog of Basic Rights, owes much to the American experience of democracy.

Today there are 245,000 American troops and their families in our country where they are welcome guests. These troops serve together with 500,000 members of the Bundeswehr and the forces of five other allied countries. What clearer proof could there be, Mr. President, that we are dependent on one another? The more than 50 million American citizens of German descent also constitute a strong bond of friendship between Germany and the United States. And I convey particularly warm regards to all of them today, on my first visit to Washington as Federal Chancellor.

Next year will mark the tricentennial of the first wave of German immigrants to America, and to mark this occasion, Germans and Americans intend to hold a big celebration together. We will recall our common origins and from this past draw strength, courage, and confidence for our common future.

Mr. President, let us make the forthcoming anniversary the start of a period of particularly close, intensive, and fruitful German-American cooperation. Let us start here and now. I'm looking forward to this cooperation.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:06 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House, where Chancellor Kohl was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors. Chancellor Kohl spoke in German, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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