Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Toasts of the President and King Baudouin

May 11, 1959

Your Majesty, Mr. Vice President, President Hoover, and My Friends:

We are met here this evening to extend a welcome to the King of the Belgians. When my mind goes to Belgium, when I think of it in an historical sense, I think of it as a country of strife and conflict. Back and forth across its highways have marched hundreds and thousands of soldiers responding to the demands of war. Its cities and streets have known the names of Europe's most famous soldiers--Caesar, Marlborough, Napoleon, Wellington, and in more recent times in our two latest great wars, His Majesty's distinguished father and grandfather.

Belgium has felt the heel of a ruling tyrant--the Duke of Alba still bears a name that is excoriated in his country. But from all these conflicts and from all these disasters, the Belgian people have always responded with renewed effort to live in peace and to help preserve the peace. And they are peaceful people.

Thousands, literally thousands of Americans went last year--among them many of you--to see the great Fair at Brussels. You could not help but sense that here is a people devoted to the arts, who think of the spirit of man more than simply his material needs for advancement--a people who, with us, both officially and in spirit are bound together in the search for peace with justice.

Our own people have had a history something of this order. Born in war, we suffered the tragedies and agonies of succeeding wars, with never once losing our dedication to peace, to the dignity of man, his liberty, his freedom, his opportunity to pursue happiness.

I think it is because of this similarity of experience that we recognize a basic kinship between our two peoples. That spirit and kinship inspired the warm welcome that was extended in the streets today to our guest of honor by thousands of people who carried tiny Belgian flags. They were trying to say "Here is a representative--the head--of a people that we love, admire, and respect and with whom we are proud to be partners in defense of freedom as we are in NATO."

Moreover, and finally, we know that these two peoples have the stamina and the courage to stand for this purpose of seeking and defending peace.

So it is with an unusual sense of distinction that I ask this company to rise in order that we may drink a Toast to the King of the Belgians, His Majesty King Baudouin.

Note: The President proposed this toast at a state dinner at the White House at 9:45 p.m. King Baudouin responded as follows:

Mr. President:

When I took off from Brussels last night, I felt I was truly entrusted with the good wishes of nine million people. So my first thought tonight is to convey them to you personally and through you to the people of the United States.

You have referred, Mr. President, to the ties uniting our two countries. These ties have brought us ever closer together for many generations. For us, America may have been a distant land in the past. It has never been an alien country, and my compatriots have never had the feeling of being strangers in your midst.

Today we are not only good neighbors, we stand together in peace, and for peace, the way we stood together in war.

May you and Mrs. Eisenhower enjoy many long years of good health and happiness. And may this great country continue its march forward in the service of mankind.

Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to raise your glasses to the President of the United States.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Toasts of the President and King Baudouin Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234821

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