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Toasts of the President and Governor-General Roland Michener of Canada

April 13, 1972

Mr. Governor-General and Lady Michener, Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Trudeau, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

The very warm words which have been spoken by His Excellency, the Governor-General, make Mrs. Nixon and me feel very much at home in this country, in which we truly have felt at home on many occasions in the past. And I can only say, in view of the political reference, that it is a very great pleasure to have at this head table at least two or three people who are not running for the office which I now hold.

This trip to Canada has been one which has been very much in our minds, and to which we have been looking forward for many months; as a matter of fact, since entering office. It has given us a chance already to see old friends like former Prime Minister Mr. Diefenbaker--we met in Washington when I was Vice President of the United States--and renew acquaintances with others whom we have worked with during the period that I have served as President of the United States. And I would say one of the real pleasures of this trip has been the opportunity to know better--I have met him once before--His Excellency, our host tonight, the Governor-General.

He speaks, of course, of the fact that he has no political power, but I would only say that when I look back on his distinguished career, his service at the bar, his service in India, and in other posts of very great importance, the Speaker of the Parliament, of the Lower House, and I think now of his service to his country in the post he presently holds, that we made only one mistake in planning this trip. It was a week too early. Next week he celebrates his birthday and his fifth anniversary as Governor-General. So in advance, we congratulate you, Mr. Governor-General.

The Prime Minister and I have had an opportunity to have chats on several occasions, and we had one particularly interesting interlude on the last occasion that I visited Canada very briefly, when we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the inauguration of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Governor Rockefeller1 was our host on the American side that day. A few of you here were there; Secretary Rogers and Mrs. Rogers will remember that occasion.

Governor Rockefeller, with his great, expansive charm, was introducing the various guests. He said, "Secretary and Mrs. Rogers," and they stood up, "the President of the United States and Mrs. Nixon," "the Prime Minister and Mrs. Trudeau." That was in 1969.2

Fortunately, I spoke after he did, and I was able to save the situation somewhat by saying that the Governor was simply meaning to be prophetic. I didn't realize what a good prophet the Governor was.

But I think that as far as the Prime Minister is concerned, and Mrs. Trudeau whom we have had the privilege and honor of meeting for the first time tonight--that the Prime Minister has proved that he is a very effective political leader. He has shown his devotion by his marriage to the great interest in beautification in Canada. And also, he is doing something about underpopulation.

Could I say just a few words now that will not be in the formal sense that I will be speaking tomorrow when I will be privileged to address the Parliament, but which will try to let those here in this company, and those who may be hearing what we say over this electronic device, provided the unions are not boycotting it-that is another thing we have in common-but in any event, may I tell you what one American and his wife, what we have in common with Canada and why we feel especially close to Canadians.

My secretary, many years ago when I was a young, practicing lawyer, was then an American, but she was very proud that she had been born in Canada. And as a result, after my wife and I were married, about 30 years ago--you wouldn't know it, but it was that long ago--but in any event, the year that we were married, we, with another couple, drove on a vacation to Canada. We were in Victoria and British Columbia, and brought back many pleasant memories of our first visit to Canada. It was because my secretary recommended that we go there, and we had no regrets.

Then I recall in the year 1942, just before World War II came along, as far as our lives were concerned, and before going overseas, we had saved a little money and we had some time for a vacation, and we took the train to Quebec, and I shall never forget those 3 days that we had, and my wife will never forget, in Quebec. The Hotel Frontenac, that magnificent view from the promenade down over the river. But more, the warmth and friendship of the people that we met on that occasion.

Then there have been other occasions through the years. When we first came to Congress in 1946, and the next year, 1947, we had a few days off and we drove up the eastern part of the United States through the beauty of New England in the summertime, and we learned to know Nova Scotia and St. John, that side of Canada.

Then, during the years out of office, I, of course, had the opportunity to visit Ottawa on one occasion, Toronto on another occasion, and Montreal.

But there was one particular occasion that I think stays in my mind more than all the others. I have been to Picton. Now, most Americans will not know what Picton is, but you Canadians will know. Or maybe you don't.

But in the year 1957, the Secretary of State and I--I was then Vice President and he was Attorney General of the United States--were invited by the publisher of the Rochester paper, Mr. Paul Miller, to sail across Lake Erie, and to go over to the Canadian side and see the beauties of Canada. It was to be a wonderful trip.

I didn't realize that even on Lake Erie one could get seasick, but finally when I saw Canadian soil, believe me, it was the most welcome soil I ever stepped on.

But the incident which I would like to leave on this occasion with our friends from Canada was what happened in Picton that day. It was a Saturday night. We had played golf earlier in the day. We were still in sports clothes in sports jackets--and we decided to go to one of the local pubs, just as we were.

We went in and sat down. We had no Secret Service at that time with us, and the waiter looked us all over, and some way he seemed to think he recognized me, but he wasn't sure.

We noted, or Secretary Rogers at least noted he was then Attorney General and is supposed to note such things--that the waiter was talking to the bartender after serving us. The bartender was looking over and saying, "No, it can't be, it can't be."

After we had finished--he was a very polite waiter--after we had finished and were ready to leave, the waiter came up and said, "Sir, if you don't mind, I have a bet with the bartender, and you can help me win it or I might lose it." I said, "What is the bet?" He said, "I bet him $5 that you are Vice President Nixon."

I said, "Well, call him over and we will confirm it." So the bartender came over and said, "Is it true?" I said, "Yes." He said, "I would never have believed it."

He gave him the $5, and as we started to move on, I heard him mumble to the waiter, "You know, he doesn't look near as bad in person as he does in his pictures."

Now, that little story tells us something about why this trip is important and why it is quite necessary. Maybe none of us look quite as bad in person as we may in our pictures, and we Canadians and Americans, because we are only an hour and I o minutes apart by air, must never miss the opportunity to see each other in person, to discuss our differences, maybe to continue them but at least to discuss them, and to maintain the individual dignity, the parallel courses to which the Governor-General has referred so eloquently just a few moments ago.

I said, when I arrived at the airport, that the example that we in Canada and the United States have set is one which all the world could well look to and perhaps in years ahead might well follow: Two nations, very much alike but also very different, and very proud--proud of what we are like and proud of how we are different but two nations living together in peace, discussing differences, not fighting about them.

And as I thought tonight of how I could relate that particular thought to this occasion, I looked at this room--in this respect I must admit I am a bit old-fashioned, I like a room like this, the high ceilings, the sense of history, all that has happened here--and I think of other great rooms around the world where this same sense of history fills us.

I had the privilege in 1958 of speaking in Guild Hall in London, and I remembered tonight some of the great speeches that have been made there: one by President Eisenhower at the end of World War II, and many others. Perhaps the most eloquent speech, and the briefest speech, ever made in Guild Hall was one made by a British Prime Minister 150 years ago. After Nelson's victory at Trafalgar, William Pitt was toasted as the savior of Europe. He rose to respond. He answered in these words: "For the honor you have done me, I return you many thanks. But Europe will not be saved by any single man. England has saved herself by her exertions, and will, I trust, serve Europe by her example."

Tonight I think we could well say the world will not be saved by any single nation, but Canada and the United States, by their example, can contribute enormously to a new world in which nations can live together in peace, friendship, and understanding, maintaining their dignity, maintaining their individuality. This is the example which Canadian-American friendship stands for, and it is one that all of us can be very proud of.

1 Nelson A. Rockefeller was Governor of New York.

2 Prime Minister 'Pierre Elliott Trudeau was not married until March 1971.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 10:40 p.m. in Rideau Hall, Government House, Ottawa in response to a toast proposed by the Governor-General. He spoke without referring to notes.

The Governor-General's remarks were as follows:

Mr. President:

When such good friends as your charming wife and yourself come to dinner, and from a long distance, it would be a poor return of kindness to interrupt the pleasures of the occasion with too much speaking. That is usually the apology to a long speech. As Santayana recognized, "The language of friendship is not words, but meanings."

The delight of my wife and me to receive you as guests in our official home has its meanings, as has the presence here, in your honor, of our Canadian guests, leaders in state and church, meanings as intelligible and eloquent, I hope, as they are real.

In any event, a few hours ago at the airport I tried with words, en francais et en anglais, to express for ourselves and for the Canadian people our great appreciation of the honor of your visit and the spirit of good will in which you have come, and that, Mr. President, in the midst of many and great responsibilities.

I ask only one favor: that you put no significance or meanings on our backward weather. Our tulips, the local equivalent of your cherry blossoms, are unintentionally late, and the snow which loiters in our fields seems to be giving point to what your poet, Walt Whitman, wrote in his "Diary in Canada," presumably as a compliment to us. He said, "I have sometimes doubted whether there could be a great race without the hardy influence of winters in due proportion." By April, we put a heavy emphasis on the "due proportion."

For many generations, your people and ours have lived side by side in harmony and understanding, while seeking, in separate but parallel ways, to develop our respective shares of this continent. Our relationship has been casual and easy, seldom requiring much articulation, and scarcely ever causing any sustained anxiety.

We look proudly on the success in your country of many of our Canadian emigres. They are like the Scots in London. It took a little time for the Honorable Mr. Macdonald [Minister, Department of Energy, Mines, and Resources, Canada] to appreciate that one.

At the same time, we acknowledge our great debt to countless Americans who have come to settle in Canada.

I could cite my own family as an example of these exchanges. My paternal great-grandfather was a Quaker from Pennsylvania, whose forebears had lived there for five generations before he moved to Ontario in 1819, for what reason I was never able to ascertain.

Today, a reverse movement gives me a sister domiciled in California, another in Florida, a daughter and grandchildren in Rhode Island, without depleting too much the Canadian stock. We all remain one family, even though our allegiance and electoral activities are different. Perhaps I should not mention the latter in this particular year, especially as I am the only one present who never engages in electoral activity and, in fact, never votes.

However, in the generation since 1945, the United States, Canada, and the entire world have undergone great changes. In the process, the relations between our two countries have become increasingly complex. With the growing interaction in almost every field of daily life, the once tacit and, one might almost say, instinctive understanding between us has perhaps become partially obscured. This should not surprise us, nor does it reflect a fading of our traditional friendship. At the same time, it does oblige us to put forward greater efforts to achieve what before seemed easily attainable.

Mr. President, for Canadians, your great Office, with its power and prestige throughout the world, symbolizes the virtues and the strength of the United States and its people. Since assuming that office, you have given leadership in a long-sighted transformation of America's foreign relations and her role in the world. The full measure of your initiatives in the military, political, and economic fields is just beginning to be recognized, together with their implications for the peace and the well-being of people everywhere. In the case of Canada and the United States, I have no doubt that they will help us in defining anew the many areas where our desires and our policies converge.

At a time, Mr. President, when both our countries are adjusting to a world in transition, it is a happy omen to have you and Mrs. Nixon in our midst, an omen of enduring and advantageous new relationships to come, an omen that the sympathy, respect, and understanding which we have achieved in the past may be projected indefinitely into the future.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and Governor-General Roland Michener of Canada Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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