Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Kenan Evren of Turkey

June 27, 1988

President Reagan. The founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, once said, "Happy is he who can call himself a Turk." Well, I can say that I understand that sentiment. And I can also say that, "Happy is the American President who can welcome the Turkish President." So, let me welcome you to the United States on behalf of myself and the American people.

We are proud to have the Turkish President here. Turkey and the United States have the strongest of bonds: friendship and alliance. Our relations have been characterized by success. Together with their NATO allies, Turkey and the United States have been partners in the most successful alliance the world has ever known, an alliance that has maintained the peace for nearly 40 years.

The modern Turkish-American partnership began in 1947. The Turkish people demonstrated the will and the courage that were required to meet the threat of aggression. The American people, with similar will and courage, were able to support them. In the 40 years that have followed, the strength and durability of our partnership, and of the NATO alliance, have discouraged aggression. In Korea, Turks and Americans shed blood together on the battlefield in defense of freedom. Today the solidarity of our mutual commitment to collective security keeps us safe and enables us to seek improved relations with our adversaries from a position of strength.

The ties between Turkey and the United States are broader than our common security interests. We are brought together by the strong bonds that derive from shared values as well. And I might say, Americans have admired the way that Turkey pulled itself back to democracy when challenged by the violent forces of terrorism and anarchy a decade ago. We are well aware of your own distinguished role, Mr. President, in maintaining Turkey's devotion to the ideals of Ataturk. Your country's pride in that accomplishment is understandable. For our part, the American people are proud of the decades of support they have given to Turkey. Friendships must never be taken for granted. We want our ties with the Turkish Nation to grow and to deepen. Happily, that process is well underway. As vigorous democracies, our peoples should get to know each other better.

Last year the "Suleyman the Magnificent" exhibit, magnificent in itself, opened the eyes of Americans to the richness of the Turkish heritage. Visits between American Congressmen and women and Turkish parliamentarians have increased in recent years, and with that increase has come better understanding. Our trade relations are growing, and Turkey is strongly attracting American investors. And I firmly believe that trade and investment are the surest ways that Turkey can find to ensure the prosperity its people seek.

Mr. President, Turkey and the United States are allies and friends; as such, we have a record of success together. In our coming meetings, I know that we will enhance that friendship and add to the record of success. I am confident, too, that your full schedule, with its intense program of contacts with American political, economic, and cultural leaders, will further strengthen mutual understanding and our sense of common purpose. I look forward to discussing with you the ways in which we can strengthen our established ties and create new forms of cooperation in defense of these purposes and values. As Turkey and the United States look ahead to the next century, our continuing friendship and alliance will continue to serve us well. It cannot be otherwise, for at the root of our relationship are common goals: democracy, peace, and security for our peoples.

And now, Mr. President, I have the honor of presenting to you the Legion of Merit, Chief Commander, one of the highest military honors our country awards, for the service of Turkish forces in the Korean conflict. I present this not only as a tribute to the valor of the Turkish military and the people of your nation but as a symbol of our alliance on so many fronts over so many years in the cause of peace and freedom.

President Evren. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, I thank you for the kind invitation to visit the United States of America and for your generous hospitality. Your warm words of welcome have moved us. This ceremony, which marks the beginning of my visit, brings together the national flags of Turkey and the United States, allies whose ties have stood the test of time.

Thousands of Turks like myself still recall the memories of fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with American soldiers in Korea for the defense of freedom. We have been allies at war and in peace. This Legion of Merit award is a reflection of the fact that the outstanding services of the Turkish brigade in Korea are still fresh in the minds of our American friends, and I accept it with deep appreciation on behalf of the entire Turkish Nation. In so doing, I express not only my own personal thanks but also those of my 54 million fellow Turks who share with me the pride of their nation on this occasion. Recalling our comrades in arms who made the ultimate sacrifice in Korea, I assure you that the dedication of the Turkish people to the principle of freedom and democracy remains as undiminished today as it did 40 years ago.

Mr. President, my visit to your country is also the natural consequence of the interest and support which your administration from the outset has extended to Turkey and to the development of Turkish-American friendship. This interest, which we much appreciate, is rooted in Turkey's dedication to Western ideals of democracy, peace, and stability. As in the past, the core of Turkish-American relations continues to consist of commonly held political views and values. Those elements constitute the most valid guarantee of the durability and closeness of our friendship, as well as the fruitfulness of our cooperation. The stable development of Turkish-American relations, based on equality and mutual interests, is to the benefit of our countries, the free world, and international peace and security.

Mr. President, I am confident that my visit will provide the opportunity for a productive dialog on how we can further expand and deepen our bonds. At the same time, I hope that my visit will also contribute to a better recognition of Turkey and the United States by our respective peoples, and particularly of Turkey as a reliable partner.

Mr. President, the people of Turkey follow with admiration your determined efforts for the defense of freedom, strengthening of peace, and development and reduction of international tensions. Strengthening of peace, freedom, and independence remain high on the global agenda. Situated in a region where these issues are paramount, Turkey is determined to continue her contribution to peace and stability. Turkey serves as an anchor of democracy, freedom, and stability in a region in turmoil. Your own Thomas Paine once wrote: "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it." Mr. President, let me say that in Turkey we do not feel fatigued by our support of the Western allies because we know that by supporting the allies we may all continue to reap the blessings of freedom.

Mr. President, I am delighted to meet you, the distinguished members of your administration, and be among the great people of this country. As a final word, let me say that I look with hope and confidence to the future of the relations between our two countries sharing the ideals of peace, stability, freedom, and prosperity. I thank you once again for your kind invitation.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 10:12 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House, where President Evren was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors. Following the ceremony, the two Presidents met in the Oval Office.

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

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