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Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom

May 14, 1991

The President. Your Majesty and Your Royal Highness, ladies and gentlemen, and friends of what is indeed our special relationship. Your Majesty, on behalf of the American people, it is an honor to welcome you to the United States and to the White House.

You have been freedom's friend for as long as we remember -- back to World War II when, at 18, you joined the war against fascism. It was then that America first began to know you as one of us, came to love you as standing fast with us for freedom, summoning across the oceans our values and our dreams.

George Bernard Shaw once joked that Britain and America are two countries separated by a common language. In truth, we are joined by a common heritage and culture, civilization and soul.

On the occasion of your first state visit to the United States, Dwight Eisenhower spoke of these bonds of friendship. He said, "Those ties have been tested in the crucible of war when we have fought side by side to defend the values we hold dear." That was true in 1957 and just as true today.

For nearly 400 years, the histories of Britain and America have been inseparable. The first permanent English settlement in America was created at Jamestown, in Virginia, 384 years ago this week. Thirteen years later, the Pilgrims landed far to the north at a place they called Plymouth Rock, named after your great naval port from which they sailed.

From those events sprang the American nation, believing, as you do, in the sanctity of the individual, and enriched by family ties that make our nations one. Because those ties have never been closer, today our alliance has perhaps never been stronger. For evidence, look to the sands and seas of the Persian Gulf. Our countries have long sought the real peace which means the triumph of freedom, not merely the absence of war. We know that you can't lock people behind walls forever when moral conviction uplifts their souls. So, like Monty and Ike, and Churchill and FDR, we linked hands and hearts in the Gulf to do what was right and good.

Years from now, men will speak of American and British heroism in the Gulf, as they do today of our cooperation in two World Wars and 40 years of peacetime alliance. They will talk of the 1st Infantry Division and the Desert Rats and of the finest sons and daughters any nation could ever have. They will praise those who assured that naked aggression would not stand, and in so doing, salute Britain's help and leadership in forging our great coalition.

The past year has reaffirmed our alliance of shared principles, our fidelity to democracy and to basic human rights, the fact that there will always be a Britain and that Britain will always be our friend.

In that spirit, let me close with your words from a 1947 radio broadcast when, in the aftermath of another war, you issued both a pledge and a request. You told the British people: "My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our family to which we all belong." And then you concluded: "But I shall not have strength to carry out the resolution alone unless you join it with me."

Your Majesty, your example helped inspire a nation and helped your nation inspire the world. Because of what you are, because of what Great Britain means, all freedom-loving people stand ready to carry out your resolution: to achieve what is just and honorable for the nations of the globe.

With great pleasure, then, on behalf of an American people which reveres their mother country, I welcome you and Prince Philip to this country, the United States of America. Thank you very much.

The Queen. Mr. President, thank you for your warm welcome to Washington and to the White House. We are both delighted to be back in the United States and to find you in the best of health. It gives me particular pleasure that this visit comes so soon after a vivid and effective demonstration of the longstanding alliance between our two countries.

It is 15 years since our last visit to Washington when, with a gallant disregard for history, we shared wholeheartedly in the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the founding of this great nation. But it is 40 years since our first visit to this country, when Mr. Truman was President. It made such a deep impression that I can hardly believe that so many years have slipped past in the meanwhile.

By now, I fully understand what Winston Churchill meant when he spoke of the inspiration and renewed vitality he found every time he came here. This country means more to the rest of the world than a rich and thriving community. In her third as in her first century, the United States represents an ideal, an emblem, and an example: an ideal of freedom under the law, an emblem of democracy, and an example of constant striving for the betterment of the people.

I know that our days in Washington will be full of interest. And once again, we expect to be inspired and surprised by the warmth and generosity of the people of America. We are looking forward to renewing old friendships and to making new ones.

Friendships need to be kept in good repair, not just the personal friendships between heads of state but the more diffused friendships between the governments and peoples of two nations. There is a symbolism in the events of such a visit that defies analysis but which has a way of reaching the hearts of people far and wide.

At your kind invitation, Mr. President, we are here to celebrate and to reaffirm that friendship. I can assure you that we are truly happy to do so.

Note: The President spoke at 11:17 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House, where the Queen was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors. In his remarks, the President referred to His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Queen's husband.

George Bush, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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