Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands

April 19, 1982

The President. Nancy and I take great pleasure in welcoming Her Majesty Queen Beatrix and His Royal Highness Prince Claus of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

This visit couldn't take place at a more appropriate moment. Today marks the 200th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. We're delighted that you honor us with your visit, Your Majesty, a visit that coincides with this historic occasion.

The bonds between our two peoples represent the longest unbroken, peaceful relationship that we have had with any other nation. When we were seeking our independence 200 years ago, your country was one of the first to which our forefathers turned. At that time the Netherlands was a bastion of freedom and tolerance on the European continent, having fought its own long and costly war for independence.

John Adams, who later was to become our second President, was dispatched to your country and reported, "The origins of the two republics are so much alike that the history of one seems but a transcript from that of the other." This parallel course did not end with the birth of our Republic. Throughout the years, the Dutch and the Americans were the world's quintessential free traders, men and women of enterprise and commerce traversing the world in pursuit of peaceful trade.

Today we recognize not only the 200th anniversary of our relations but also the lasting imprint your country has made on America. Your Majesty, who can forget that New York was first New Amsterdam? Later, Dutch families helped settle the frontier, and investors from the Netherlands played an indispensable role in producing the American economic miracle. Even today, our citizens build upon this heritage, remaining a major source of foreign investment capital for each other, interacting peacefully and constructively in mutually beneficial commerce.

Few nations have had the good will that is the hallmark of the relations between the United States and the Netherlands. Our shared values extend beyond the commercial vigor that built our standard of living that developed in both our countries—a respect for the rights of the individual, a recognition of human dignity more valuable than wealth generated by commerce industry, and a desire for peace more powerful than a tyrant's threat.

In only a few places on this planet do people enjoy the treasures of liberty and tranquility. Those who do must be ever mindful of the cost of such well-being. If totalitarian nations are permitted to achieve military superiority, liberty and peace will depend only on the good will of tyrants.

The American people and the people of the Netherlands, Your Majesty, traditionally have been advocates of peace. Today our challenge lies not only in a desire for peace or in its advocacy but in accepting the responsibility to do that which is necessary to maintain peace. It is an arduous task, often a thankless one. In 1942 Queen Wilhelmina came to Washington and spoke to a joint meeting of our Congress. She said, "Democracy is our most precious heritage. We cannot breathe in the sullen atmosphere of despotic rule."

Your Majesty, as we stood and heard the cannons welcome you a moment ago, I couldn't help but think back to the early years of our fledgling Republic. In 1776, shortly after we'd declared our independence, a tiny American fighting ship sailed into the Dutch port of St. Eustatius in the Windward Islands of the Caribbean, our new nation's flag flying proudly on the mast. No powerful government had yet recognized us. But the cannons of the Dutch fort bellowed out the first foreign salute to the American flag flown by a naval vessel. Today we return the honor.

We've been side by side for 200 years. Such friendship is appreciated here. Your Majesty, welcome to the United States.

The Queen. Mr. President and Mrs. Reagan, my husband and I thank you for your warm welcome. Your words of cordiality are addressed to us and through us to my fellow countrymen.

In a certain sense, we can regard our visit as a milestone on a journey that started some 200 years ago, the end of which is not yet in sight. Many Dutch people have also taken part in this journey to the New World. Hundreds of thousands have come to this great country to settle and build up a new future. Others have come to seal the bonds of friendship. My grandmother did so in 1942, when our countries were joining hands to preserve freedom for the world and human dignity for mankind. In 1952 my mother came here to pay tribute to what the United States had done for us during the Second World War and in the subsequent period of reconstruction.

Now, as we jointly celebrate 200 years of uninterrupted diplomatic relations, we pause to reflect on the support our peoples have given each other since the very beginnings of this great and proud nation, both in times of danger and in times of joy. We have looked forward to this official visit, which we realize will be altogether too short to cover such a vast area as the United States of America. We welcome the opportunity to become better acquainted with the American people later this year when my husband and I will be touring, in an official visit, to mark the bicentennial and celebrate, again, our very good relations.

You, Mr. President, have officially proclaimed the 19th of April as Dutch-American Friendship Day. It marks the beginnings of our state visit today, a promising beginning and an appropriate moment to dwell on the value of our lasting friendship, of the very good ties between the United States and the Netherlands in the past, in the present, and in the future.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:10 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House, where the Queen was given a formal welcome with full military honors.

Following the ceremony, the President met with the Queen and her husband, Prince Claus, in the Yellow Oval Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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