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Toasts of the President and Chancellor Kiesinger of Germany

August 07, 1969

Mr. Chancellor and our friends:

This is for all of us a very special occasion, because it is the first visit of the Chancellor of the Federal Republic to this country since the new administration came into office.

It also, incidentally, is a first in another respect that I know the Chancellor, as a lawyer, will appreciate my mentioning. It is the first time that the new Chief Justice of the United States has ever attended a state dinner as Chief Justice. Coming, as he does, from St. Paul, with so much German-American background, I think it is altogether appropriate that this is the first dinner that he was able to attend.

Our thoughts tonight go to many things, and above all I would say to the makeup of the company that is here to honor the Chancellor and the members of his party. I look around this room and I see two former Secretaries of State, Secretary Acheson and Secretary Rusk, and I know of their devotion to the same principle that all of us have held--the close alliance and friendship between our two countries.

I see Jack McCloy, who has served as [U.S.] High Commissioner [for Germany], and think of his service. Then, of course, I see General Lucius Clay,1 whose name is legend still in Berlin and will always be, because of what he did and what he stood for in that period.

I mention these names because they cover both political parties and they indicate something that is very deep in the American spirit, regardless of party. There is a recognition of the tremendous importance of the Federal Republic and the United States having the closest relations, the importance of our recognizing that the survival of the Federal Republic as a strong and vital country in the heart of Europe is important in the highest degree to the survival of freedom in Europe and in the world. This we know and this company knows--those who are here all share that view.

Also, from a personal standpoint, Mr. Chancellor--we welcome you here as the head of government of a great friend and ally, and we welcome you here as the leader of a great people--but from a personal standpoint, we also have other bonds. I have been delighted to have a chance to talk to your daughter [Mrs. Volkmar Wentzel], who now lives among us and to hear of your two grandchildren whom you mentioned this morning, both American citizens, which bring us to a point that we Americans all are very proud of--the great contribution that is made to the United States of America by peoples from so many countries and particularly the contribution that has been made by people of German descent.

I am reminded of that when I think of the great dinners that must have been held in this room, some of which I attended, many of which I did not. One in particular, where Winston Churchill, early in World War II in 1941 was here, honored by Franklin Roosevelt, the then President of the United States.

After the dinner he went down ,to speak to the Congress of the United States and he made a statement that was of great impact in that Congress and it will always be remembered. He said, "I cannot say that this is my fatherland, but this is my mother's land."

I could say that, if my wife, who has just completed a long journey with me and who stood up in the heat of Asia much better than I did, were to go and speak at the Parliament of Bonn. She could say, "This is not my fatherland, but it is my mother's land," because like so many Americans, she has that background. Her mother was German and her father was Irish and Chancellor [Konrad] Adenauer once said that that combination made the very best--right in this very room he told me that.

Well, so much for the personal references.

I would like to leave just one thought that I think is very appropriate and timely to mention on this occasion. As we speak of what this country is, our country, the United States of America, where it came from, and all of the genius that we have, ,to the extent we have genius, we, as Americans, all know that we came from all of the nations of the world, and that we owe something to all the peoples of the world.

I think of some of our guests tonight. I will not go into all of their national backgrounds; that would take one hundred to describe. But I think of Edward Teller [pioneer nuclear physicist] of Hungary. He was one of my first and earliest advisers in some of the very difficult problems that we confronted in the fifties.

I think of Wernher von Braun.2 I remember the first Sputnik, when it went up, the first man who came to see me then-I was then Vice President--and talked about the challenges of space and what the United States and other countries could do, was Wernher von Braun.

There were many others who followed. But that is an indication of the broad spectrum that the United States represents and all of the genius and the ability and dedication that went into the exploration of the moon that has caught the imagination of the world. That is why, as I spoke around the world, I could truly say that we were proud of it as Americans, but we recognized that this was an accomplishment for all men; that all mankind some way was able at that particular time, at that particular place, to combine in one great venture, and in so combining to raise the sights of the world, to bring the world, in a sense, closer together.

Finally, that brings us to our two countries, what we have done, where we are and where we are going. It is essential, as we said earlier today, both in our public conversations and in our private conversations, that our two countries continue to be close friends and allies.

It is also essential for us to realize how much we can do together the genius of the German people combined with the genius and ability of the American people-together what a tremendous power, not just for defense against any threat, a power that was set up and has been very effective over the last 20 years, but a genius which can be so effective and powerful for good, for creativity.

This is what we can think of as we look down over the next 20 years. I know that the people of your country--from my visit in February, and the exciting welcome we received every place we went, in Berlin and Bonn and all the other places--I know that they share this view. And I know as we meet here today that everybody in this room, whether they be United States citizens or German citizens, recognizes that so much rests in our hands; that the kind of policies we develop, the firmness, the strength, the intelligence, will determine whether freedom will survive in Europe, western civilization--this great source of strength which is so important for the future of mankind.

Mr. Chancellor, we have been gratified to have had the opportunity to know you and have worked with you during your years of service, and I can only say that looking to the future we look forward to the opportunity to work with you and your colleagues, for that German-American friendship which is so essential and absolutely indispensable to the survival of peace and to the achievement of freedom with peace and justice in Europe and in the world.

So with that, I know all of you will want to rise and raise your glasses to the Chancellor of the Federal Republic and to the friendship of the people of the Federal Republic of Germany and the people of the United States.

To the Chancellor.

1 Commander in Chief of U.S. Forces in Europe and Military Governor, U.S. Occupation Zone in Germany 1947-1949.

2 Director, George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 10 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

See also Items 316, 320, and 321.

Chancellor Kiesinger responded in German, as translated by his interpreter, as follows:

Mr. President, Madam, Mr. Chief Justice, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

Thank you, Mr. President. I am moved to the bottom of my heart for this fine and festive occasion that you have prepared for myself and my party. I would like to extend this heartfelt thanks also on behalf of my daughter and son-in-law, who I know particularly enjoy this event.

I remember that last time I had the opportunity of saying a few words in this room I quoted a saying by Goethe, the famous one, that runs along these lines: America, you are better off than that old and ancient Europe. And he thought in terms of the fact that we are laden with the heavy traditions while America is free and easy in choosing its path into the future, and he was right in thinking along these lines.

That was the great chance that this country had, and now look what this country has been able to make of it. I think that this is one of the greatest chapters of human history, of the history of mankind, the history of what has happened to this America and in this America since the first settlers came over from the Old World, and I know how then they were all looking toward Europe.

I also find a word by Jefferson that says: "Our difficulties are indeed great, but when viewed in comparison to those of Europe, we are like the joys of paradise." I know, Mr. President, you would not be prepared and willing any longer to apply these words to the present situation.

Nowadays, we are all living on this dwindled planet, living together, confronted with the same dangers, but also confronted with the same great opportunities that the modern world offers to us. I have been active in the political life of my country for some 20 years.

I never thought I would ever become head of government of my country and even becoming a minister was too high an aim at that time. But I remember, I don't know what made the then High Commissioner in Germany, Mr. John McCloy, one day call a number of young members of Parliament--it was then very early--as early as 1950--to come and meet him for dinner, and we were all looking at each other wondering what he had in store for us, what his intentions about us were, and those he had convened were people called Brentano, Schroder, Blank, Strauss, and I, myself, had the honor of being in that group.

I must say that somehow he gave proof of a very strong prognostic power, because afterwards we found that all of those he had invited at the time fulfilled an important task in rebuilding our country.

Now in those 20 years in which I have been active in the political life of my country there has never been any doubt in the free part of Germany, in the Federal Republic of Germany, and never any difference of opinion that the great and overwhelming majority of our people about the necessity that we have to secure peace and security and freedom in Europe in closest cooperation and friendship with these United States of America.

We all are deeply indebted to the United States for what they have done for us. Gathered in this room there are many men who have made historic contributions during those 20 years.

You, Mr. President, have mentioned some of them. I could add quite a number of names to your list, but I really would not know where to begin and where to end in quoting them. But let me tell all of them that they can be convinced that what I say is not only what Chancellor Kiesinger thinks, but it is the opinion and conviction of my people.

We believe that the wise and determined policy of these 20 years--and we have just been celebrating a few months ago the 20th anniversary of the North Atlantic Alliance and that Alliance has secured the peace and freedom of our nations and we all know that it is because of that policy that we have been successful and that is why we want also in the future to stay and stick firmly to the Alliance, an alliance as necessary today as it was when it was rounded.

Now this does not mean that we should not try and find ways in which we could ease conditions, ease situations, and move towards a better peace, a peace that will be eventually durably secure. But this effort presupposes that taking the world as it is without any illusions we should, nevertheless, not renounce the hope that human beings after all are born to be reasonable and that when all is said and done human beings will be reasonable and that reason will prevail.

In all the talks I had with you, Mr. President, I felt that we were both firmly unanimous in that opinion. I have had several opportunities of meeting with you and talking with you. The first one was back in 1954 during my first visit to the United States. Then in recent years we had several other occasions and I am very glad about them and they have provided the basis of not only my confidence, but really the basis of the confidence of the entire German people, the trust in your policy, a policy under wise leadership.

We consider NATO to be more than a purely defensive alliance. We think that that alliance affords us the opportunity as free partners with the United States and together with others to jointly work towards securing peace.

Now, if we look back we find that there are many things that have happened in these very few years. Just very recently in a small and very forlorn Tyrolean village I was able to witness a great event, that fact of human beings setting foot, human beings, Americans, setting foot for the first time on the moon.

I would say it is nearly impossible to incorporate this fact into our human vision of history and nobody as yet will be able to say what this will lead to. But you, the American people, can be proud about that grand achievement and you can be sure that we all rejoice with you.

I may repeat what I said 2 days ago in New York, that the amazing precision with which this achievement was prepared and executed, this enormously complicated undertaking, fills the statesman with envy and he would only wish that these down-to-earth affairs with which we have to deal could be planned as exactly and precisely as this great achievement was. We know only too well that this is not possible and that this world continues to be a puzzling and uncertain one, full of dangers, but also full of opportunities. And in order to take advantage of those opportunities it is absolutely necessary that we be together.

The more dangerous this world is, the less calculable this world is. The more we need to join our efforts in facing the common dangers and to join our forces to use fully the opportunities offered to us.

Mr. President, you can be sure that the German people are ready to do that. We are not only thinking in terms of our own problems, but we shall in the future have an open mind for all the problems of the world, together with you, the leader of the Western World. We are aware of our responsibilities and we know we have ourselves to contribute our share.

I am sure that if the free nations of this world stand together, that they will be eventually able to secure freedom and to secure peace and that is my wish for the American people, for the German people, for all the peoples on this earth.

It is in that spirit of gratitude and of friendship that the Chancellor raised his glass to the further consolidation over the years to come of that existing friendship and he asked his friends to drink with him to the President of the United States of America.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and Chancellor Kiesinger of Germany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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