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Toasts of President Reagan and French President Francois Mitterrand at a Dinner Honoring the French President in Paris

June 03, 1982

President Reagan. Mr. President, Madam Mitterrand, Prime Minister and Madam Mauroy, Ministers and honored guests and dear friends:

Nancy and I are very pleased to be with you tonight in this lovely home of Ambassador and Mrs. Galbraith, our gracious hosts. I hope you all realize that we know, of course, France has great appreciation for fine wines, and that's why we decided to treat you to some California wine tonight. [Laughter]

I speak not just for Nancy and myself but for so many of our countrymen when I express the joy that we Americans feel in returning to France and seeing again her special jewel, Paris. Mr. President, I'm grateful to have the opportunity to continue our dialog and to meet with Madam Mitterrand, members of your government, and so many of your fine citizens. I've enjoyed getting to know you this past year and have benefited from your wise counsel during our several discussions.

This will be our second economic summit together. You may be sure I'll work with you to help make it a success.

I come to Europe and to this summit with a spirit of confidence. Our administration has embarked upon a program to bring inflationary government spending under control, restore personal incentives to revive economic growth and to rebuild our defenses to ensure peace through strength. This has meant a fundamental change in policies, and understandably the transition has not been without difficulties. However, I'm pleased to report that these policies are beginning to bear fruit.

Inflation is down; interest rates, I'm very happy to say here, are falling; and both personal savings and spending are improving. And we believe that economic recovery is imminent.

We also are moving forward to restore America's defensive strength after a decade of neglect. Our reason for both actions are simple: A strong America and a vital, unified alliance are indispensable to keeping the peace now and in the future, just as they have been in the past. At the same time, we've invited the Soviet Union to meet with us to negotiate for the first time in history substantial, verifiable reductions in the weapons of mass destruction, and this we are committed to do.

You and your country have also been working to set a new course. While the policies you've chosen to deal with economic problems are not the same as ours, we recognize they're directed at a common goal: a peaceful and a more prosperous world. We understand that other nations may pursue different roads toward our common goals, but we can still come together and work together for a greater good. A challenge of our democracies is to forge a unity of purpose and mission without sacrificing the basic right of self-determination. At Versailles, I believe we can do this. I believe we will.

Yes, we in the West have big problems, and we must not pretend we can solve them overnight. But we can solve them. It is we, not the foes of freedom, who enjoy the blessings of constitutional government, rule of law, political and economic liberties, and the right to worship God. It is we who trust our own people rather than fear them. These values lie at the heart of human freedom and social progress. We need only the spirit, wisdom, and will to make them work.

Mr. President, just as our countries have preserved our democratic institutions, so have we maintained the world's oldest alliance. My true friends, who may disagree from time to time, we know that we can count on each other when it really matters. I think there's no more fitting way to underscore this relationship than to recall that there are more than 60,000 young Americans-soldiers, sailors, and marines—who rest beneath the soil of France.

As the anniversary of D-Day approaches, let us pay homage to all the brave men and women, French and American, who gave their lives so that we and future generations could live in freedom. In their memory let us remain vigilant to the challenges we face standing tall and firm together.

If you will allow me, there was a young American—his name was Martin Treptow-who left his job in a small town barbershop in 1917 to come to France with the famed "Rainbow Division" of World War I. Here on the western front he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire.

We're told that on his body was found a diary. And on the flyleaf, under the heading, "My Pledge," he had written that, "We must win this war." And he wrote, "Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended upon me alone."

The challenges we face today do not require the same sacrifices that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. But they do require our best effort, our willingness to believe in each other and to believe that together, with God's help, we can and will resolve the problems confronting us.

I pledge to you my best effort. Let us continue working together for the values and principles that permit little people to dream great dreams, to grow tall, to live in peace, and one day to leave behind a better life for their children.

Saint-Exupery wrote that a rockpile ceases to be a rockpile the moment a single man contemplates it bearing within him the image of a cathedral. Mr. President, let us raise our glasses to all the cathedrals yet to be built. With our friendship, courage, and determination, they will be built.

Vive la France et vive l'Amerique des amis ce soir, demain et toujours. [Long live France and long live American friendship, this evening, tomorrow, and always.] Would you like to translate that for the Americans? [Laughter] All right. Thank you.

President Mitterrand. Mr. President, Madam, I would like to say welcome, welcome to our country. And our country is a country which enjoys receiving a visit from friends. And we're also proud that you should be here and that you should be here on the occasion of your first trip to France and, indeed, your first trip to Europe. So, during this visit we will keep you here with us for 3 days, and the Prime Minister and myself, we will then have the privilege of seeing you again in Bonn.

Now, the French who are here with me, here today, during those days when you will be here in France, we will try to ensure that this visit, which I know is a visit which is dedicated to work and activity, should also be a visit of pleasure, a pleasure that one finds among friends.

We have had several occasions already to meet and to talk together, and we will move forward towards a mutual knowledge of each other. And we have been able to talk of the matters which are of importance for our countries and, indeed, for the whole world. And I have always appreciated, Mr. President, your wise counsel, the very marked attention that you have devoted to what has been said around you and your open-mindedness. And it is clear that when the fate of mankind is at stake and also, well, mankind to some extent for which we are responsible, you and I, it is on those occasions that your attention is particularly dedicated.

It is not a matter of chance that we should in fact be the members of the oldest alliance in the world. Think of the time that has elapsed, the generations that have gone by, the events that have taken place—the contradictions, perhaps, in our approaches to the things of the world. And yet, despite all these differences, when the time of need came, we were there, both of us, in order to defend the cause of liberty, the liberty for the individual citizen within each country and the liberty for all the citizens in the whole world, and the liberty, in fact, of friends.

It was not a matter of pure chance nor a matter simply of the combination of various interests which led to the presence of French soldiers by the side of American soldiers when it was a question of fighting for the independence and liberty of your country. Nor was it a matter of chance or of interest merely when many years later American soldiers fought side by side with French soldiers for the independence and the liberty of France. It is because, perhaps without really realizing it, during those two centuries many people reacted and reflected in the same way as the almost synonymous hairdresser that you were mentioning earlier, who later became a soldier, in fact felt that on their shoulders rested the Weight of the whole world.

It was simply because they felt that they were responsible, and this man alone realized in his innermost conscience and awareness that in fact what he decided in his intimate knowledge of himself and what was right in his eyes, that in fact that that would govern the way the rest of the world would think likewise.

And where else really does one learn responsibility? Surely it is only in the political democracies where in fact one entrusts to no one else the decisions that have to be taken by each and every individual. And who can really be fully responsible more than the person who realizes and fully appreciates that it is the force of the mind that is decisive and that will always win the day over the mechanical forces, however powerful they may be, even the forces of economics.

So, one can say that the world can be built if one thinks right and if one wants it. And we have an excellent opportunity of proving this in the next 3 days—without too much ambition, but all the same we need a lot of ambition in the positions that arise. But to move with a sense of solidarity and consistency towards justice and, therefore, towards peace is already something, perhaps, that is important.

Now, the least we can do, of course, is to discuss economics. And if the seven countries which will be meeting with the European Economic Community are to attain the strength that they need in order to defend the ideas which they consider to be right, then it is important not to divorce the economic powers from the other resources that are ours. It is important that we should be able to guarantee peace which, after all, is based on agreement among ourselves. But in order to be able to do that, it is essential that we should not be, in fact, fighting within ourselves.

I, like you are yourself, I am confident that we can, in fact, control and dominate the crisis which we are living in. The methods that we may employ within our countries may indeed be somewhat different. But the aims are the same, and our methods can and must in fact converge in the form of common actions that we can engage in together.

Yes, I am confident that we will win the battle of peace, although, sometimes the methods that we will employ within our countries may be different. But we will always agree on the essential goals. And so it is that, for over a year now, we have indeed moved forward together, hand in hand, in full agreement about the goals that we were striving to achieve.

Now, by the presence of force and power, we should be able to view with equanimity and indeed serenity the threats that may be before us. But at the same time, we will only use force in order to ensure the protection and the achievement of the peace which is so necessary. And so it is that force must be there in order to back, just start the necessary negotiations. And that indeed is what you have just done, saying what you have said just before the opening of the very important talks concerning disarmament, talks that are to be held with the very great power that—with you and with others, such as ourselves—is responsible for the fate of the world.

And I hope that we will be able to extend our efforts too, further, in order to help those billions of human beings who are no longer really the Third World, but a sort of world which is in the process of moving towards development, a world which needs us just as we need them, in order that our century should have a future.

Well my dear Ron, perhaps the remarks that you were making yourself earlier have led me somewhat far afield from the tone that should be the tone of this evening, that is continuing—because it has not yet reached its end. And it is a tone, of course, of happiness, the happiness of being together, the joy of being together. And so in a moment, I will be raising my glass to your health, to the health of Mrs. Reagan. And I have had the very great pleasure of having long talks with Mrs. Reagan. We started our talks in London, as we will recall, and indeed we also talked about you. [Laughter] I've also raised my glass to the people of the United States, our friends, our faithful friends, just as we are their loyal allies. And it is our function to say on all occasions what we think just as it is our duty to, at all times, show our wholehearted solidarity.

And also I raise my glass to the health of the Ambassador and Mrs. Galbraith representing the United States here in France. And it is to you, Madam, that we owe these very pleasant moments.

And I'm not only speaking on behalf of the French guests present here tonight-who represent what you might call in American terms, as far as the political scene is concerned, a sort of "cocktail"— [laughter] —but vis-a-vis the President of the United States and indeed the world, they are representatives of the whole nation of France—and it is on their behalf, on behalf of everyone, that I would like again to raise my glass to your health. And I would say, good luck to your action and also good luck to the work that we are going to undertake in the next 2 days—the conquest of liberty and peace.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 10:22 p.m. at the residence of U.S. Ambassador to France Evan G. Galbraith. President Mitterrand spoke in French, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts of President Reagan and French President Francois Mitterrand at a Dinner Honoring the French President in Paris Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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