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Toast at the State Dinner in Bonn, Federal Republic of Germany

May 05, 1985

President and Mrs. von Weizsacker, Chancellor and Mrs. Kohl, honored guests, Nancy and I want to thank you for your warm and gracious hospitality. Our visit to the Federal Republic of Germany has been a wonderful and enriching experience. Today was especially moving. We cannot fully understand the long road we've all traveled since 1945 unless we remember the beginnings. By standing before mass graves at a spot such as Bergen-Belsen, we could begin—but only begin—to feel the suffering of so many innocent people and to sense the horror which confronted our leaders 40 years ago. And by joining Chancellor Kohl in Bitburg, we could better understand the price paid by the German people for the crimes of the Third Reich.

Today, as 40 years ago, the thought uppermost in our minds must remain: Never again. You, Mr. President, embody the values which we're working to protect today. Your distinguished career in business and politics, your engagement in church affairs, are exemplary. Over the years, Americans have been especially moved by our ability to articulate the soul of the German nation. You have been eloquent in your message of sorrow over Germany's historic burdens. You've been inspiring in your offer of hope. I remember so vividly my visit to the great city of Berlin in 1982. Your achievement in restoring confidence and hope to democracy's city was a service to the entire West.

The camaraderie of this evening, the good will that we've enjoyed, reflect the deep and abiding friendship between our two peoples, an affection that overcame the bitterness of war. The passage penned by Schiller in "Wilhelm Tell" says, "What's old collapses, times change and new life blossoms in the ruins." Forty years ago, our friendship blossomed in the ruins. Today the bond between us is a powerful force for good, improving the material well-being of our peoples, helping keep us at peace, and protecting our freedom. In this year, studded with anniversaries, let us remember to celebrate the beginning of friendship as well as the end of war.

You, Mr. President, and Chancellor Kohl have been among the most thoughtful spokesmen for the spirit of the Federal Republic. Through you we've experienced the warmth and depth of German-American solidarity. By working together as friends and allies we have accomplished more than any visionary could have predicted.

Europe has enjoyed 40 years of peace. This did not just happen by chance. Peace has been the outcome of decisions made by individuals with the wisdom to see what was needed and the courage to do it. Chancellor Kohl, I understand and appreciate how difficult it was for you to stand firm and refuse to back away from the decision to modernize NATO's nuclear deterrent. By moving forward we balanced off the threat created by the massive Soviet buildup of the last decade and gave substance to our arms reduction talks in Geneva.

What we seek in Geneva is an agreement which will permit us to reduce significantly the size of nuclear arsenals. For too long we have lived in the shadow of nuclear destruction. The United States is now moving forward with a research program which could offer a way to diminish the threat of nuclear annihilation. I hope that the Federal Republic will join us in this effort to find ways to enhance deterrence based on protection instead of retaliation, on systems capable of destroying attacking missiles but incapable of threatening people.

Today, very appropriately, marks the 30th anniversary of the Federal Republic's entry into NATO. As always, our collective effort will be founded on one simple truth: NATO threatens no one; NATO protects the peace.

It's especially fitting that on this the anniversary of the end of a worldwide conflagration that the leaders of the seven great industrial democracies met here in the Federal Republic to exchange ideas on economic issues and matters of state. As individuals elected by the people to represent their values as well as their interests, our good will and cooperation reflect the highest aspirations of the free people of this planet. The freedom our peoples have enjoyed in these last four decades has opened the door to a future in which our potential will be limited only by our imagination. The free people of the world, especially here in the Federal Republic and in the United States, stand together on the edge of this new era, a time of space stations, conquering diseases, and great leaps in the standard of living for all mankind.

Ahead of us may be a time when the artificial barriers that divide Germany, and indeed all Europe, are cast away, a time when there will be no need for weapons or barbed wire or walls in Berlin.

These are not dreams. I believe from the bottom of my heart we have every reason for confidence. The future is on the side of the free. The Federal Republic and the United States have proven that. Our 40 years of friendship are reason enough to rejoice, but let us look to the next 40 years, to the freedom and peace our children and their children will enjoy, to the boundless progress they will make, and to the friendship between Germany and the United States, which will serve them well just as it has served us.

Let me then offer a toast to the many friends gathered here tonight and especially to our shared future. To the President, to Germany, to America, and to freedom throughout Europe.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 9:25 p.m. at Schloss Augustusburg in response to a toast by President von Weizsacker.

Ronald Reagan, Toast at the State Dinner in Bonn, Federal Republic of Germany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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