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Toast at a State Dinner in Versailles, France

January 05, 1978

Mr. President and Mrs. Giscard d'Estaing, distinguished leaders of France, friends who have made our brief visit here so inspirational and so enjoyable:

We have said many times since arriving in France how closely related our nations have been since the origins of our republics. In addition to the heroism shown by warriors who fought together in times of conflict and trial, we also had intimate relations that existed between the early leaders of our country and the leaders and the people of France.

Two of our earliest Presidents served here during their tutelage for leadership, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Benjamin Franklin, another great leader of our country, served here as Ambassador of the United States in its formative stage. Unbeknown to the Continental Congress and other national leaders, Benjamin Franklin was also an Ambassador from my own State of Georgia. We paid him, secretly, $15 a month. [Laughter] I understand he did our work at night, along with many other interesting things. [Laughter]

Benjamin Franklin made a very interesting statement during the time he was Ambassador here which I would like to read. "God grant that not only the love of liberty but a thorough knowledge of the rights of man may pervade all the nations of the earth so that a philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its surface and say 'This is my country.'" the interesting thing is that he said this, "a thorough knowledge of the rights of man," years before the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

As President Giscard d'Estaing has already said, the first treaty of independence between Great Britain and the United States was signed here at Versailles. And President Wilson came back here in 1919, at this very place, to sign the Treaty of Versailles, establishing again both peace and a worldwide commitment to freedom and liberty.

It is difficult, perhaps, for citizens of France to know or to comprehend the deep feeling of brotherhood, mutual purpose, and appreciation held in the hearts of Americans for what your nation has done for us.

In the early years of our young nation, Lafayette was still a great hero in our country. In my own State of Georgia, he traveled widely, visiting the cities of Augusta, Sparta, Milledgeville, Savannah, and we even know that he visited a small Indian village between Georgia and Alabama very close to where I live. We have both a city and a county in my own State named after Lafayette.

The Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of the Rights of Man initiated the startling concept throughout the world of basic human rights. Since I've been here, President Giscard d'Estaing and I have discussed some of the aspects that go with the definition of human rights. One of the most important is that of worldwide peace.

Another is economic benefit, which guarantees free people a chance for food, shelter, health, education, and a chance for their spirits to grow.

Another is to strengthen the ties of friendship, such as those which exist between the people of France and the people of the United States of America.

Another is to exhibit bravery, not through coercion but voluntarily for a worthy cause. We honored this type of bravery today near the beaches of Normandy.

Another characteristic, of course, is the appreciation of beauty. And today we've had a reaffirmation of our consciousness of the beauty that pervades the nation of France—not only the countryside through which we traveled, but this palace, the home that your President has permitted us to use for these two nights. And this afternoon, we had a chance to see the beauty of your artists whom we admire so much in our own country.

If France and the United States, bound so closely together now, can continue to exhibit the bravery and the commitment which we have shown in the past, then human rights will be the historical inevitability of our times.

On behalf of the people of America, I would like, therefore, to propose a toast to President Giscard, to the people and the greatness of France.

Note: The President spoke at 9:42 p.m. at the Grand Trianon in response to a toast by President Giscard d'Estaing.

Prior to the President's remarks, he attended a reception at the Grand Trianon, where he met with various French political leaders.

Following the dinner, the President and President Giscard d'Estaing went to the Chateau de Versailles for a reception.

Jimmy Carter, Toast at a State Dinner in Versailles, France Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244372

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