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Toasts at a Luncheon Honoring King Baudouin I and Queen Fabiola of Belgium

April 22, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. This is indeed a great pleasure and an honor for us to have all of you as guests with us at the White House, and particularly to welcome distinguished visitors, Their Majesties the King and Queen of the Belgians, King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola.

Twenty-one years ago, as a matter of fact, His Majesty came to our country for his first visit. A year later, he came back and brought his Queen. And since then, they've been frequent visitors to our country. With friends like these, it's obvious that fond memories and strong friendships are built. And this is a special occasion, when we face a world which is rapidly changing, where intense rivalries, sometimes hatreds, are focused, where the past is difficult to understand and the future almost impossible to predict, to have a stable factor in our lives, built on mutual understanding, mutual commitment, mutual principles, and a common belief in a secure future built on strong friendships.

We were honored in 1978—my wife and I and members of our Government-to visit with Their Majesties in Brussels. It was a delightful experience. We had a long and very intimate and very productive conversation. I don't think the world events since then were the result of that conversation; we won't be responsible for that. [Laughter] But we learned a lot from one another and had a chance to enjoy the hospitality of the Belgian people.

This is a special visit for Their Majesties and the distinguished Ministers from Belgium to come here, because this is a celebration of their 150th anniversary of the founding of their nation as an independent and united entity. However, our friendship with the Belgian people and with their country goes back far beyond, earlier than 150 years ago.

As a matter of fact, as early as 1803, the United States had one of its Government agencies in the port city of Antwerp, and 17 years later, in 1820, we established our first consulate there. And then 10 years later we celebrated with the Belgians their formation of a nation.

This has been a very productive relationship for us. We were very delighted, as a very senior and statesmanlike and mature nation of 53 or 54 years, to welcome this new nation into existence— [laughter] —and we've enjoyed a good big brothers, equal relationship since then. I'm very grateful to know that we have this friendship with the Belgian people.

We had an opportunity Sunday night to see the most remarkable exhibitions of fireworks combined with lovely music in an inspirational event that I've ever seen in my life. We had large groups of Americans who were here, both as residents of Washington and as tourists, who saw the initiation of this celebration of art and culture in an exhibit that will be going across our country as the "Belgium Today" exhibit for the next 6 weeks.

I think it's good for us to look back upon the last 150 years and realize that the strong friendship, that has been so mutually beneficial, has never flagged. We've been through difficult times together. We've been through two devastating World Wars as comrades in arms, when our soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder for the preservation of freedom and liberty. We were committed together, we suffered together, we triumphed together because of the courage of the people who fought for us and for a common and secure future.

We learned in that time the value of strong alliances, and we learned in that time the devastating impact of divisiveness and of a lack of commitment and of a lack of will to preserve the peace. Now, with the NATO Alliance and with the Belgians as our close and staunch allies, we again are committed to peace through strength, and it's very reassuring to us to know that the preservation of the peace is paramount for us all.

We believe in the idea of diversity in a context of unity. We honor one another in the difference in perspective, in the difference in geographical location, a different relationship with our immediate neighbors, and different goals among our people. But that diversity is well understood, and it's built on mutual respect and a realization that within the concept of unity that right to diversity can be nourished and enjoyed.

I would like to say that we also share with Belgium a realization of the value of a major city which is a crossroads of the diplomatic and the economic world. In Brussels and in New York, in Washington and in Geneva, and in only a very tiny additional number of cities in the world is this advantage realized. And through this interrelationship among nations that takes place within the breast of a city can come, among the people surrounding that city in a nation, a concept of understanding one another and a concept of differences that can divide people, but can be harnessed if wisdom and patience and generosity and unselfishness is present for a common purpose of realizing beneficial common goals.

When His Majesty was in this house on his first visit 21 years ago, he said, "We stand together in peace for peace." And that statement has been the guiding commitment which has been so beneficial to our people since that time. In a time of challenge, with armed invasion threatening the peace of Southwest Asia, with terrorism a constant preoccupation of statesmen and leaders and the people, with economic threats to the security and the wellbeing of our people, those kinds of prospects strengthen us in our common commitment and let us realize much more vividly the value of amity and of mutual support and of cooperation.

Again, let me say that all of us welcome Their Majesties to our Nation. And I would like to ask all of you to rise and join me in a toast: To Their Majesties the King and Queen of the Belgians, to a great nation, built on courage and a desire for peace, and to the people whom they lead.

THE KING. Mr. President, first of all, I wish to thank you and Mrs. Carter for the wonderful hospitality that you have so kindly extended to us on this beautiful spring day. I wish also, Mr. President, to convey to you my heartfelt thanks for the kind words you have just expressed to the Queen and myself and towards my country.

It is important to us that our two nations maintain the excellent relations which many years of close cooperation have unceasingly strengthened. The harsh lessons of our history have led us to enter the Alliance, and Belgium is aware of the immense benefits of the security resulting from its NATO membership. Within such an organization, friendship cannot exist without solidarity, and in times of hardship, one judges the solidity of both. Our country does not ignore this fact.

At the present time, the United States suffers the consequences of a flagrant violation of international law. Other disturbing events appear elsewhere in the world. No doubt, Mr. President, that Belgium understands fully the importance of what is at stake and also knows where its duty lies.

I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, to raise your glass to the health of the President and Mrs. Carter and to the prosperity of the United States of America.

Note: The President spoke at 1:36 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Toasts at a Luncheon Honoring King Baudouin I and Queen Fabiola of Belgium Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249683

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