John F. Kennedy photo

Toasts of the President and Chancellor Adenauer at a Dinner at the American Embassy Club in Bad Godesberg

June 24, 1963

I know that all of us who have come from the United States have been very much warmed, heartened, encouraged, strengthened by the generosity of the reception we have received from all of you and from the people of the Federal Republic. I don't think that there is any substitute, however reliable and however much we admire the press, for an opportunity to visit firsthand and see the American people as the Chancellor has done, than for us to see the German people. Everything else falls away against this opportunity to come face to face, so that while the Chancellor and many of us will be meeting on Wednesday in Berlin, I do want to take this opportunity to express our warm appreciation to all of you, the strong feeling of confidence it has given us.

I think it renewed the life, although it didn't really need that, of our relationship, and in every way we have been made extremely happy by our visit. We are very much indebted to you all and we are most indebted to the people whom you serve.

I want to express my special appreciation to the Chancellor. As I said yesterday, he made, as did my predecessors in the United States, the crucial and the correct judgment. I think that he has been generous enough to say that perhaps the United States was the only one that made the long, fight judgment in the late forties and in the fifties, and he on his part, and all of you as colleagues, also made the right judgment. And that will entitle my predecessors and will entitle the Chancellor and those who have worked with him, it seems to me, to a very important page in the history of our times, which is going to be recorded, I think, as the most significant times of the last years, in fact, the last centuries. These are the critical days because whether the world survives or not is a matter that comes before us for judgment, at least once every year, and I suppose it is going to go on that rather doleful path. But the Chancellor in his time, meeting his responsibility, made the right judgment and, therefore, he is an historic figure and one to whom all of us who believe so strongly in the cause of freedom feel privileged to come and pay him our high esteem.

I hope that all of you will join in drinking with me to a distinguished leader of your country and also a distinguished leader of the West, the Chancellor.

Note: The President proposed this toast at the dinner at the American Embassy Club in Bad Godesberg. Chancellor Adenauer responded as follows:

Mr. President, gentlemen:

I am deeply touched by what President Kennedy has just said. I am deeply moved because in my opinion it was the United States, at first Mr. Acheson and Mr. Truman, then Mr. Dulles and President Eisenhower, who have helped us Germans, a conquered people, who were completely down at the time.

I don't particularly like to make such acknowledgments, but let us face it; historic honesty requires that we say that the war which destroyed Germany was provoked by Germany; that the United States has shown the great vision to help the defeated enemy, which was really a deed which is only very rarely found in history.

You, Mr. President, have been here since yesterday. All of us, since your arrival at the airport, have had so many impressions, so many deeply moving experiences--this is certainly true for me--that we can say that a real epoch has been characterized by this visit. You saw yesterday, as we all did, and you have heard the masses in the squares, and you have seen in their eyes the real gratitude which they wanted to express. Now, gratitude is a very rare virtue, and certainly it is particularly rare in politics, but you have seen it directly with your own eyes, that these masses of people who lined the streets in Cologne, in the cathedral, in Bonn, in the Market Square, were filled with a real desire to demonstrate to you, as the representative of the United States, how grateful they are for everything that the United States has done, particularly to us Germans. I feel that these impressions may, in the difficult moments which you will face in the future, at a time when you will have to make more decisions, help you a little. And if these impressions at the time you have to make such decisions will be revived in front of you, then they may help you make the decisions with that clarity and that forcefulness which statesmen require. If we can make a little contribution in this sense, I think that would be the best result of your visit here.

I want to thank you in the name of all of us Germans for coming here, and I want to emphasize between the United States and us, after all that is behind us, no split or separation, or whatever you want to call it, will ever happen again. We realize that the leadership is yours, not only because of your great nuclear strength, but because of the great political acumen and the moral strength which you and your country have shown. It is, let me say it again, you, as the victors, gave your hand to us as the vanquished, that this is something which I think is the finest that any people can do.

May the memories of these days of your visit to Germany remain alive and may the thanks of the thousands contribute a little to help you make decisions in the same spirit which the United States has shown in the past, and which forever has insured for the United States a golden page in history. I propose a toast in honor of the President of the United States.

John F. Kennedy, Toasts of the President and Chancellor Adenauer at a Dinner at the American Embassy Club in Bad Godesberg Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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