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Toasts of President Reagan and President Francois Mitterrand of France at the State Dinner

March 22, 1984

President Reagan. Mr. President, Madame Mitterrand, Mr. Foreign Minister, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Our evening together has rekindled some pleasant memories of warm June nights in the beautiful gardens of Versailles, of observing the colorful and moving commemoration of the union of French and American forces at Yorktown, of the many distinguished world leaders at Williamsburg just last year. Soon, I look forward to bringing home yet another memory in which President Mitterrand will be a major part.

We will meet later this year to commemorate the anniversary of the landing of Allied Forces on the Normandy beaches 40 years ago. That event tied the hearts of our people, and for all time sent a message to tyrants that free men are all citizens of the same land.

Mr. President, your visit to America this week is yet another milestone in the common heritage and close association of our two freedom-loving nations. France was America's first ally. The trust and confidence which have characterized our long relationship is undoubtedly an object of great envy throughout the world. France and America share many traditions. We have innumerable ties, cherished by our people, nurtured by our governments.

Foremost among our ties is a profound commitment to democracy and liberty, a heritage inscribed in the Constitution of both our countries. These values lie at the heart of the Atlantic alliance. And this commitment between the great democracies of Europe and North America has preserved peace for a longer period than any [other] in modern European history.

Tonight I would like to reemphasize that the United States remains thoroughly committed to the Western alliance and to the defense of Europe. We seek peace and security, and to that end, .America also strives to achieve greater East-West dialog. We will continue to work for a more stable relationship with the Soviet Union—one that will lead to better understanding and a relaxing of existing tensions.

This evening, while savoring the memories of Lafayette and Rochambeau, of Jefferson and Franklin, we must also salute those contemporary figures who personify the richness of the bonds between us. I'm struck by how many of our guests here tonight share close ties to France and to French culture. Both our nations can be proud of our citizens whose work and creativity have contributed so much to the quality of our lives and who are recognized on both sides of the Atlantic.

We share strong links of culture and commerce. We engage in extensive scientific cooperation. And every day, we reap the harvest of social, cultural, and educational interchanges.

I'm particularly pleased that France and the United States are engaging in two new endeavors—an artists exchange program and a cooperation in environmental affairs. These agreements will greatly contribute to the cultural and scientific enrichment of our societies.

Mr. President, today we had a frank discussion of bilateral issues and also of those concerns of the European Community as a whole. And such dialog between us can only serve the interests of both our countries. In the years ahead, Americans and Frenchmen will be as they always have been—proud and independent, but united together in the cause of freedom, security, and economic progress. All Americans are grateful for your friendship and appreciate the courageous stands France has taken throughout the world in the cause of liberty.

When you return to your country, please take that message of our gratitude and admiration with you. In the meantime, we wish you a pleasant and worthwhile visit to the United States.

So, let us raise now a glass to the common purpose and the special friendship of France and the United States, and of President Francois Mitterrand and his lovely wife, Danielle, our guests and our friends.

President Mitterrand. Mr. President, Madame, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends:

The President of the United States has just used two words. He said that our meetings were pleasant and fruitful, and I think that no better words could be chosen.

Pleasant, our meetings have been, since this morning when we first got together from the very first moment. Thanks to yourself, Mr. President, and your wife, and all those who have contributed to make our visit so pleasant, we have enjoyed the warmest possible hospitality. And I'm speaking on behalf of myself and Mrs. Mitterrand and those accompanying me. At the same time, we have been able to engage in serious conversation, but in a climate of friendship. And you have been, I think, particularly, if I may say so, nice to France, and this is particularly due to you, Mr. President, and to you, Madame. You're responsible for this—for the warmth of our reception-and I want to thank you.

Now, I hope also that our meetings will prove to be fruitful. We have, in fact, already started discussing a number of aspects of the life of this world we live in, and sometimes those aspects are somewhat tragic and, at any rate, dramatic. We have talked about war. We have tried to find ways of overcoming and preventing war and how it can be possible, perhaps, to develop the machinery to ensure that thing that is so difficult to achieve and is so mysterious, perhaps—peace.

We have, perhaps, not yet found the secret of the key to peace, but we are craftsmen working on the job, and we are looking and we are seeking for the secret and for the key. And I think our work will prove to be fruitful because, in any case, it is always fruitful and useful to compare the assessments of the world situation of two countries who are united by friendship, and such friendship that has existed for so long, for so many years, that it becomes just a natural way of life. And I think that that is the right way to talk together and, indeed, to do good work together.

Now we have reached the end of the day and not the least pleasant moment of this very pleasant day. We have reached a moment of rest and a pleasant moment of relaxation; at the same time, a rich and useful conversation which, at the same time, carries with it the great pleasure, the warmth of just being together and, for a moment, forgetting perhaps the requirements of our official ties and existence.

And yet the paradox is that this is still a state visit, as the diplomats call it, because President Reagan has invited the President of the French Republic. But all the same, tonight for a few hours we have perhaps been able to shed the mantle—the somewhat heavy mantle of protocol and official ties and relations which we will, of course, resume very seriously tomorrow. But for the moment, we have a few hours just to live our life, and to live our life in a pleasant environment and, also, in a few moments, in an artistic environment.

Now, I will not recall here all the moments of our common history that, of course, come to mind—the people, the events that have led our two nations throughout the years and centuries of history to the situation that we are in today in this world of turmoil, where the United States and France have managed to stay linked together, closely tied and united, and for the important things have always been able to work together for peace and for the defense of a few simple principles that do not need complex explanations, but which are merely the very essence of our civilization.

And so I wish to thank you, Mr. President, and you, Madame, for the exceptional warmth and quality of the way you have received us here today and particularly tonight, and I want to thank you on behalf of my country, on behalf of France. Life—everyday life is not always particularly easy. Washington and Paris—well, there is some distance between them, naturally. And we do not always—our eyes are not always turned in exactly the same direction. And that, in a way, is perfectly natural, in view of the fact that we aren't sitting in the same place. But when it is necessary, you are present and we are present. And we know that. You know it, and we know it. And that, I think, is the best assurance that when we are gone, our successors will be able to say that that friendship which was struck up at the end of the 18th century stood well the test of time until the end of the 20th century, and then, as far as the future is concerned, well, that will be their problem.

But I think that I would like to close, Mr. President, by raising my glass. And I would like to drink to your health, Mr. President. You are responsible for a great country whose tremendous diversity reflects so much charm and strength. And to you, Madame, to your own health, to the health of your family. And to you, ladies and gentlemen, I want to drink to your health and to your life, your work, and your hopes. In other words, your life-to coin a phrase. And I hope that your life will be a long and prosperous one. In other words, what I'm saying is that I'm raising my glass to the American people so admirably represented here tonight.

Thank you.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 9:50 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. President Mitterrand spoke in French, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

On the following day, the two Presidents held a breakfast meeting in the Blue Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts of President Reagan and President Francois Mitterrand of France at the State Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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