John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks Upon Arrival at Orly Airport in Paris

May 31, 1961

General de Gaulle, members of his government, Madame de Gaulle:

I want to express on behalf of my wife and myself our most generous appreciation of your welcome today.

I come from America, "the daughter of Europe," to France, which is America's oldest friend. But long before my country was born, French influence, French philosophy, French culture led the Western World to such a degree that the first American Ambassador to Paris, Benjamin Franklin, could say, "Every man has two countries: France and his own."

But I come today not merely because of past ties and past friendship, but because the present relationship between France and the United States is essential for the preservation of freedom around the globe. I come also because of the grandeur of France's present mission, the productivity of her workers, the brilliance of her universities, the vigor of her leaders. In my office, in recent weeks, I've received many envoys of new countries. Many of them spoke French, the language of free men.

So, General, it is an honor to come and visit you today. You have been a captain in the field in the defense of the West for more than 20 years. Your vigor, your leadership, your long sense of history, are needed now more than ever in the past. France and the United States have been associated in the past in many great causes, but I can think of no more happy cause than to be associated together in the climactic moment in the defense of freedom.

Note: The President spoke at 10:30 a.m.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks Upon Arrival at Orly Airport in Paris Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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