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Toasts of President Reagan and President Karl Carstens of the Federal Republic of Germany at the State Dinner

October 04, 1983

President Reagan. Well, Mr. President and Mrs. Carstens, Mr. Minister and Mrs. Genscher, honored guests:

I said this morning, and I would like to say it again, how happy and proud that Nancy and I are to welcome you to the United States. Your own ties with our country, including a master of laws degree from Yale University, are longstanding and deep. Your life is a monument to the shared values and interests that have long provided our two peoples with a bounty of good will. And today, all Americans celebrate our ties and are grateful for our solid friendship with the German people.

Three hundred years ago, a small group of hardy pioneers set out from Krefeld, in the Rhineland, to sail into the unknown. In America they found the religious freedom they sought, but hard work was the price they paid for their new-found freedom. And those 13 German families brought with them courage and industry to build new lives. Their talents and those of their descendants helped create the great city of Philadelphia and the great State of Pennsylvania, both of which share our honor in welcoming you.

This year we commemorate the remarkable odyssey of the Krefelders and of the millions of others who followed them. The virtues of courage, industry, and belief in freedom which they brought helped build our country, contributing to what is best about the United States. The contributions of German Americans have been invaluable to the development of our great country.

The people of the Federal Republic of Germany have proven that they still possess those traits that helped build America. From the rubble of the Second World War the industrious German people constructed a strong, healthy, and free democracy. We stand firmly together in the search for peace and freedom.

Anniversary celebrations tend to look back, but we should not limit our commemoration to reminiscences of the past. A strength of both of our peoples is that we also look to the future. The true meaning of this anniversary week is an enduring partnership that will lead to a more secure peace in the decades ahead.

Many colorful events have been organized throughout the United States to celebrate our ties. I congratulate the sponsors of these undertakings and of the numerous initiatives which have sprung up during this tricentennial year. The tricentennial reinvigorates the cultural, historical, and political ties between our two peoples. It symbolizes something real, tangible, and enduring-German-American friendship.

Mr. President, we're grateful for your visit. We thank you for all that you've personally done in your distinguished career to support close ties between our two nations. And I want to tell you, knowing your background here in America, when I was a boy I read about Frank Merriwell at Yale; I didn't read Brown of Harvard. [Laughter]

We raise our glasses to you, Mr. President. To President Carstens and to the friendship that your visit represents.

President Carstens. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, ladies and gentlemen:

It gives me great pleasure, Mr. President, to be your guest here in the White House. And I thank you most cordially, also, in the name of my wife and in the name of the Vice Chancellor, Foreign Minister and Mrs. Genscher, and of our other German guests, for the warm and generous hospitality which you are again extending to us.

I am deeply moved that it has been granted to me, as representative of the German people, to visit the United States and to strengthen the bonds of friendship with your great country. I look forward with eager expectation to the days in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Dallas, Seattle, Madison, New York, and New Haven.

Let us, Germans and Americans, bear in mind our common history, and let us take strength from our common ideals and our common goals. On this visit, personal memories shall be accompanying me. I have been to the United States on numerous occasions in an official capacity. However, my thoughts go back, above all, to the time immediately after the Second World War when I obtained a scholarship from Yale University in 1948.

The year which I spent there added a new dimension to my life. The good will and the cordiality which I encountered are firmly engraved in my memory. At Yale I studied American constitutional law, and I later qualified as a university professor in Germany with a study on this subject. This aroused my interest in public affairs and in politics. I felt more and more called upon to work for the common good.

And it also became clear to me at Yale as to what constitutes the real strengths of the American nation; namely, the conviction of its citizens that there are basic values which precede every and any governmental system. Among these values rank the dignity of man, justice, and freedom, and also something which you, Mr. President, have repeatedly stressed; namely, trust in God. This has been true from the beginning, and the tricentennial of the first German immigration into North America marks an appropriate moment for recalling it.

"Proclaim freedom throughout the land, for all its citizens." These words, from the book of Leviticus, are inscribed on the Freedom Bell in Philadelphia. In the first place, they refer to religious freedom. But they also included the other human rights, the inalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as the Declaration of Independence expresses them. In these ideals, and in the earnest endeavors to realize them, lay the great attraction of the United States from the very beginning. Millions of Germans felt this attraction and went to America, and they included many of our nation's best sons and daughters-freedom-loving, industrious, adventurous men and women who found a new home here.

They became pioneers in building your country, and they tied the cordial bonds of attachment between America and Germany which have proved their constancy despite several setbacks. Germans played, as you have mentioned, Mr. President, a role in the advance of American civilization and the natural science, the social sciences, the fine arts and music, a civilization which has entered upon an unparalleled, victorious march through the whole world in our epoch and which has profoundly influenced the lifestyle of almost all countries, including ours.

But the United States did not only lay a new foundation for the social life within their own country but also towards other countries. "Observe good faith and justice towards all nations," declared George Washington in his farewell address. "Cultivate peace and harmony with all to give to mankind the magnanimous and noble example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence."

Clearly it is difficult always to comply with such a high claim. However, the benevolence and magnanimity remained guiding principles for American policy. And we Germans also experienced the charitable assistance of the Americans after the Second World War. The granting of economic aid in the shape of the Marshall plan furnish examples of this, as does the airlift to Berlin, a city which owes so much to America and which you visited last June—June of last year—Mr. President.

Safeguarding freedom in Europe—that is the purpose of the North Atlantic alliance in which our two countries are partners. This alliance is a defense community. And I need not stress that it only serves to defend. It is an alliance between free peoples who have joined together because they share the same values, including freedom, which they wish to preserve.

This alliance has granted us security and peace over three decades. During this time, about 9 million American citizens served as soldiers in Germany. Together with our young German conscripts and troops from other member countries of the alliance, they ensured that we can live in the manner desired by the overwhelming majority of our citizens; namely, in a free democracy governed by the rule of law.

Germany is a divided country; yet we Germans adhere to the unity of our people. The policy pursued by the Federal Republic of Germany is directed towards a state of peace in Europe in which the German people will regain their unity through free self-determination. We thank America for always supporting this goal of ours.

As I said, for about 30 years the United States and Germany are members of the alliance. And if the alliance endeavors to obtain a military equilibrium at as low a level as possible, this will guarantee not only freedom but also peace. Both of these, freedom and peace, would be endangered, I think, if the other side were to acquire military superiority. The fate of Afghanistan provides a sad example. We must never tire of pointing out these implications time and again to those among our citizens who champion the cause of unilateral disarmament, even though I respect their motives.

We Germans shall stand by your side as your allies and partners also in the future. And with this thought in mind, may I now raise my glass to drink to your health and success. Mr. President, to your health, Mrs. Reagan, to a happy future for the United States of America, the leading power of the free nations, and to another three centuries of German-American friendship.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 10:50 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts of President Reagan and President Karl Carstens of the Federal Republic of Germany at the State Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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