Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Francois Mitterrand of France

March 22, 1984

President Reagan. Mr. President, Madame Mitterrand, Mr. Foreign Minister, and distinguished guests:

Nancy and I are pleased and honored to greet you and Madame Mitterrand. We welcome you as a head of state who has demonstrated courage and decisiveness in the face of international challenges that test the character of Western leadership. We welcome you, also, as the representative of the French people for whom all Americans share a special affection.

We look out over the White House grounds, and we see evidence that the bond between us is deep and has stood the tests of time. There in the distance is the Jefferson Memorial, a tribute to America's third President, a founder of our republic, an intellectual whose ideas were profoundly influenced by his exposure to French philosophy and culture. It is not mere coincidence that this giant of American freedom was one of our first representatives to France.

Mr. President, millions of people throughout the world admire and respect your country's historic legacy. Today, under your leadership, France continues to be a major contributor to world stability and peace. In this cause, we stand together as two peoples who cherish liberty and two peoples committed to humane and civilized values.

Ours is not an easy task. As you have astutely noted: "Peace, like liberty, is never given, and the pursuit of both is a continual one."

In Lebanon, we Americans are proud that we're part of a peacekeeping force working together at great risk to restore peace and stability to that troubled land. We will always remember that in this gallant and humanitarian effort we stood shoulder to shoulder with your brave countrymen.

Our nations, two great world powers, have responsibilities far beyond our own borders. Your influence is a force for good in the Middle East. You have drawn a line against aggression in Chad, and you've extended assistance to other African nations seeking to preserve their security and better the lives of their peoples. These are but a few examples of the constructive global role that France is playing.

Mr. President, the American people applaud you and the people of France for your diligence and your courage.

President Mitterrand, you come here fresh from a European Community summit meeting in Brussels. At this meeting and elsewhere you exerted your leadership as an advocate of greater European unity. I am most eager to discuss with you our bilateral concerns and also those economic, social, and political issues of significance to Europe as a whole. America continues to support a strong and united Europe. The European democracies are, through the North Atlantic alliance, anchoring the mutual defense of our common freedom. Today, as in years past, our own liberty relies heavily on the good will and shared sense of purpose among those people in the world who enjoy freedom. Victor Hugo's words still ring true. "It is through fraternity," he said, "that liberty is saved." Clearly, Mr. President, if those who love liberty stand together strong in resolve, freedom will not only survive, it will prevail.

Symbolic of our friendship, this summer America will greet the first contingent of French experts coming to New York to aid in the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. This year we will begin celebrating the centennial of that lady of light. That magnificent gift, a beacon of liberty for all mankind, is a lasting reminder of that precious heritage that we, the French and American people, share.

Mr. President, I'm pleased that your visit will include travel to parts of America that, as President of France, you have not yet been able to visit. You've already seen a good part of our east coast, especially the tidewater section of Virginia which you visited during the celebration of the French and American alliance at Yorktown, and again when we met with summit colleagues at Williamsburg.

This week you will go further south to the dynamic city of Atlanta; later, north to Pittsburgh. Then you will also journey to America's heartland, the Midwest, the farm country, for a firsthand look at American agriculture. And you will travel to the American west coast and visit our home State of California. There, innovations in energy and electronics, spurred by tax incentives that reward personal initiative and risk-taking, are paving the road to the 21st century and a new era of high technology.

It's comforting to know that no matter what changes technology brings to our way of living, the good will between our peoples will remain solid and lasting. America is delighted that you have set this week aside to be with us as a friend.

During your visit to Washington, Nancy and I look forward to deepening our personal relationship with you and Madame Mitterrand and with your colleagues. We offer you a warm welcome and our best wishes for a rewarding and memorable visit.

President Mitterrand. Mr. President, Madame, ladies and gentlemen:

My visit today is taking place between two anniversaries—that of the Treaties of Versailles in Paris last September, and the anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy in 2 months time. Now, I may say that this is perhaps a case where chance has been on our side, but I think that there is more than this. There is something symbolic. And, in fact, there is no such thing as chance in the history of peoples of the world. There is, however, something that is called destiny. And our destiny is indeed a common destiny.

And so, I think it is natural that my first thoughts should go to the Americans and the French, brothers in arms, who from Yorktown all the way through the ages to Beirut have, in fact, shed their blood together. And history shows that these sacrifices have never been made in vain, because their purpose was not to conquer nor to achieve power, but to defend freedom.

Now, despite all this, perhaps our two peoples do not yet know each other well enough. And so there is sometimes, shall we say, room for certain uncertainties. Now, after having had conversations with yourself, Mr. President, I will have the opportunity of spending 5 days traveling through the country in order to see again places that I've learned to know in the last 38 years since my first visit to this country, but also to get a better understanding of the dynamic qualities of the country, the great diversity of the United States, its culture and its modernness.

But my ambition is also to show you-during my visit and during our conversations on world affairs and the affairs that concern our two countries—I want you to see the true picture of France: France, which is, all right, a country of tradition, but is also a country of economic and technological power that is looking towards the future; and France that is preparing herself with determination for the world of the future that the next few years are going to bring to us; France, which is a constant ally that can be counted upon and which intends to bring her own original contribution to the quest for peace and the pursuit or the resumption of development, because relations between our two countries obviously cannot only be a matter of celebrating our glorious past.

Our main concern in 1984 must surely be the question of security in Europe and relations between the East and the West and also between the North and South, which we'll be talking about.

And here the firm and clear orientations that I have given to French diplomacy are known to yourself and to your administration and to our friends throughout the world and based on the basic idea of unfailing loyalty to our friends and the concept of the balance of forces worldwide and in Europe. Firmness and determination are indispensable qualities, but they must go together with keeping the dialog open, particularly with the Eastern bloc.

Now, France is strong, independent, and sure of herself and, therefore, is willing and prepared and determined to dialog with everyone on all subjects. And France, sure of her own citizens, is, as I say, open within her means to a discussion on all matters while being always loyal to her friends. But there are other important tasks that we have to tackle jointly and which are essential for the balance and the equilibrium of the world.

Now, it is true, we recognize that the upturn, the economic circumstances in the United States and the presence of American diplomacy worldwide—all this creates favorable conditions for a recovery of world affairs in all sense of the term. And it is true that the serious dangers that were threatening the international financial system last year have been able to be met. But our efforts must never be relinquished in such areas.

And yet, despite all this that we have achieved, I think the main task is still ahead of us. We must consolidate what has been achieved, which is still fragile. We must push back the frontiers of poverty, which remain in so many regions of the world the true, the genuine roots of war. And we must guard ourselves against too much indifference—any indifference towards the Third World, in particular. We must remember that the Third World is in the same universe, although in difficult conditions, as ourselves. And what will happen, the future of the Third World is something that of course depends on them, but also on us.

So you appreciate, Mr. President, that we have so many tasks to perform together. I don't think, though, it is likely that our friendship will have much opportunity of remaining idle for very long. We have numerous tasks to perform.

Now, Mr. President, Madame, I am really happy to be here, in front of the White House, in this city of Washington, in this garden, in these places which mean so very much to all of us. For you and I this will be another of our meetings, and we have always been able to communicate among each other concerning our plans and projects. And it is my earnest wish that this visit should establish yet closer ties of friendship and fraternity between us, because I think that that would be the best way of ensuring even speedier progress towards that region of the heart, perhaps, where liberty exists. We're moving in that direction, but we still have some road to follow.

Now, Mr. President, how can I end these remarks, these first remarks that I'm making here on American soil? Well, I wish to say to all those who are here, all those who are present all over the United States, I wish to extend, and in English, my warmest greetings to the great American people.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 10:12 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House, where President Mitterrand was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors. President Mitterrand spoke in French, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Following the ceremony, the two Presidents met in the Oval' Office. They then went to the Cabinet Room for a meeting with U.S. and French officials.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Francois Mitterrand of France Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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