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Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Prime Minister Jacques Chirac of France

March 31, 1987

The President. Mr. Prime Minister, Madame Chirac, Mr. Foreign Minister, and distinguished guests, Nancy and I offer you our warmest welcome to the United States, to Washington, and to the White House. And we greet you, Mr. Prime Minister, not only as the head of government of the French Republic, our nation's oldest ally in war and peace, but as a representative of the people of France, for whom the people of the United States have long had a special affection.

We only have to look around us this morning, if we could, to look beyond the White House lawn to the graceful monuments of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, to be reminded [of] the historic struggles for freedom and liberty which have bound our nations together for generations. Indeed, the park directly across the street from the north entrance of the White House bears the name of a brave Frenchman who, as a young man, became a trusted aide and almost a son to George Washington, Lafayette.

As you know, Mr. Prime Minister, this year we Americans are celebrating the 200th anniversary of our Constitution. In doing so, we're rededicating ourselves to the aspirations of all men to live in freedom and peace, aspirations captured in that ageless document. It was written by Americans, of course; but today it is only right to point out that they were Americans—James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and others—who had been influenced by the great names of the French Enlightenment, like Montesquieu, for one, and by the hopes for liberty and human rights so ardently expressed by the French people themselves.

Some months ago, Mr. Prime Minister, our two great nations celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States. Lady Liberty, now beautifully refurbished, her torch rekindled, has rightly become cherished throughout the world as a symbol of human freedom. But even Lady Liberty, as magnificent as she is, would be nothing but an empty symbol had not the American and the French peoples, time and again, joined together in moments of peril, joined together in common sacrifice to preserve and defend freedom itself. Three years ago I stood on the windy beaches of Normandy and, as Frenchmen and Americans, recalled together the most perilous days of the Second World War. And this spring Americans will join in celebrating the 70th anniversary of the arrival in France of the American expeditionary force of World War I. Indeed, Mr. Prime Minister, from Yorktown to Belleau Wood, from Normandy to Beirut, Frenchmen and Americans have stood together and, yes, died together in the name of peace and freedom.

Today we continue to face grave challenges together as we seek to ensure a safer world and a more prosperous future, one in which our peoples and those of other nations can live in still greater prosperity and freedom. We both understand that to achieve that end our friendship must remain deep, our alliance strong and bold. And we both believe that today it is the forces of freedom that are on the march.

You have a very busy day ahead of you, Mr. Prime Minister, one that I do not intend to delay. Nancy and I hope during your all too brief visit to talk of our common goals, but also to deepen the personal friendship with you and Madame Chirac and with your colleagues. Once again, we offer you and Madame Chirac our warmest welcome. And on behalf of all Americans, soyez les bienvenus aux Etats Unis [welcome to the United States].

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, ladies and gentlemen, let me, first of all, Mr. President, tell you how really delighted my wife and I are to be here with you today among our American friends and our French friends. And let me first thank you, Mr. President, for having invited me to come on an official visit to the United States, where I stayed and worked, some 30 years ago, alas, when I was a young student just discovering this New World. And finally, let me convey to the American people the feelings of friendship, brotherhood, and admiration and affection that the French people have for them and also, Mr. President, the affection that the French people have towards you yourself and Mrs. Reagan. Feelings of brotherhood, yes, because our two countries have always been side by side in crucial moments of their history.

Three years ago, as you mentioned, Mr. President, you came to France to commemorate D-day in Normandy and to honor the resting places of so many young Americans who gave their lives to free France and Europe. And last year you celebrated, as you recall, the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, a gift of the French people, and especially a symbol of the American dream and of American reality. This year, almost 70 years to the day after the United States went to war alongside France and its allies of World War I, I have come to tell you, Mr. President, this: France has not forgotten. When I go and pay tribute during my brief stay in Washington to the memory of General Pershing—a great man, a great soldier, and a great American—I shall be paying tribute to all of the American boys who fell on France's soil to defend my country against all kinds of hegemonies in 1917 and again in 1944. And now that I am here in the United States, there is something I want to tell you with all my heart, and that is this: Thank you, America. France has not forgotten. France remembers.

But, Mr. President, I have not come solely to convey this message of remembrance. I have come to tell you that we continue to uphold the same ideals of freedom, to be driven by the same will, to face the dangers that confront us all together: terrorism, war, hunger, poverty, new diseases, drugs, and yet other dangers. In the face of so many trials, so many threats, we are resolved, as you are yourselves, to go on fighting and affirm the importance of our ideals. We are side by side in all these great struggles. Today, as we set forth on a technological adventure to conquer new fields of intelligence—biology and space—we must work together in an ever-growing spirit of trust, cooperation, and true market competition. We have to work together to face the challenge of the future. With these feelings and in this spirit, I am entering into these 2 days of talks that will enable us, I am sure, Mr. President, to find, together with American leaders, common guidelines for future action on the scale of the ambitions we share.

Note: The President spoke at 10:07 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. Prime Minister Chirac spoke in French, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. In his opening remarks, the President referred to French Foreign Minister Jean-Bernard Raimond. Following the ceremony, the President and the Prime Minister met in the Oval Office.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Prime Minister Jacques Chirac of France Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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