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Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for King Juan Carlos I of Spain

October 13, 1981

The President. Your Majesty, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you and Queen Sophia to the United States. We welcome you as monarch of Spain and as a champion of democracy.

Yesterday, we celebrated Columbus Day. Some 489 years ago, three ships sailing under the Spanish flag and commissioned by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella made a discovery that irreversibly altered the course of history and marked the emergence of Spain as a world power. It's fitting that one who traces his lineage to Ferdinand and Isabella now leads Spain into a new era of democracy and freedom. We applaud the sensible path toward political liberty that you've chosen and the skill, and if I may add, personal courage, that you've demonstrated in reaching your goal.

On July 1st, I met with your Foreign Minister, Jose Pedro Perez Llorca, and he emphasized that Spain is moving toward joining the major European institutions. This, too, we applaud. We look forward to Spain's complete integration into the Western community of nations. Already, the Spanish Government is playing a leading role in the struggle to combat terrorism on the European continent. Such initiative is well-appreciated here.

Spain's growing presence cannot help but strengthen the bond that exists between our two people. Americans will never forget the all important assistance Spain was during our struggle for independence and freedom.

So now, when we offer the Spanish people our hands and our hearts, we do so out of gratitude for all that Spain has done for us. Those of us from the western United States understand perhaps more than other Americans the magnitude of Spain's contribution. Spaniards explored the length and breadth of the southern and western United States, settling or passing through 16 of the present States of the Union. My own California is a wonderful example of Spain's lasting cultural gift. Catholic missions still stand in testimony to this magnificent cultural and spiritual contribution to the world. Spanish architecture is everywhere, and California's constitution was written in two languages—Spanish and English.

At my first inauguration as Governor of California, I took the oath of office with my hand on a Bible brought to California by Father Junipero Serra, a Spaniard whose unselfish devotion to God is an inspiration to all Americans. These things and our many citizens whose family trees are rooted in Spain have had a major impact on the American character.

In 1883, one of our great poets, Walt Whitman, commented on Hispanic traits and the American identity. He said, "No stock shows a grander historic retrospect-grander in religiousness and loyalty, or for patriotism, courage, decorum, gravity, and honor."

Well, today we know that the traits Walt Whitman described a century ago well characterize the leadership of King Juan Carlos. We welcome you, Your Majesties, and are grateful for your dedication to your country and to your ideals. You have the admiration and respect of the American people, and you honor us with your visit.

The King. Mr. President, the Queen and I offer our sincere thanks for your very warm greetings. It has given us great pleasure to be able to accept your most kind invitation and to be here today in your great country.

We officially begin our visit at this ceremony with our hearts and spirits working towards the pleasant task of bringing our peoples and our two countries together in a felicitous and productive cooperation based on our common interests and goals.

From the vantage points afforded us by our respective national characteristics and destinies, we are witnessing an increasingly closer weave in the fabric of our relationship—a relationship whose goal is the progress and well-being of our people within the global context of the noble principles of peace, understanding, freedom, and prosperity for all mankind.

We also wish at this time to express to the American people the Spanish people's message of sincere friendship. Mr. President, for the world and for my country, you embody the great American democracy which during its two centuries of existence, in times of peace as well as times of hardship, has succeeded in defending and upholding the timeless values of justice and the dignity of man.

In this task, you will always have the understanding and support of my country, which with its new democratic vitality, with faith and hope, has set out upon the path leading to full integration in the Western World to which it belongs.

Mr. President, here at the portico of the White House, whose architecture reflects the austere solemnity, the traditional virtue of the pioneers who founded the American nation, the Queen and I thank you and Mrs. Reagan for your cordial welcome.

Note: The President spoke at 10:12 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House, where King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia were given a formal welcome with full military honors.

Following the ceremony, the President and the King met in the Oval Office. Also present at that meeting were Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Richard V Allen, and Terence A. Todman, U.S. Ambassador to Spain, and, on the Spanish side, Foreign Minister Joab Pedro Perez Llorca, General Sabino Fernandos Campo, Secretary General of the Palace, Jorge del Pino, Director General for US. and Pacific Affairs, and Joab Llado, Spanish Ambassador to the United States. President Reagan and King Juan Carlos were then joined by an expanded group of their advisers for a second meeting in the Cabinet Room.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for King Juan Carlos I of Spain Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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