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Toasts of the President and King Baudouin of Belgium.

May 20, 1969

Your Majesty and our guests:

On my recent trip to Europe, the first stop, as many of you will recall, was Belgium. I think it was particularly appropriate that that stop was selected, first because there is no country in Europe, or for that matter the world, that has a more special place in the hearts of Americans than the country of Belgium. That is because of what we knew of it during World War I and the Second World War; a people who had courage, a people who had suffered much, and a people who came back.

Americans, therefore, developed a special admiration for the people of Belgium, for those who represent them in the council of work.

So, subsequently, we are very honored today to have again in this house, as our very special guest, His Majesty the King of Belgium.

I can speak of him in many ways, of his interest in space. Along with the Queen, he has just witnessed the space shot,1 something, incidentally, I have never done. I have never gone to Cape Kennedy, and I hope to go, perhaps for the next shot,2 after hearing their description of how exciting this one was.

1Apollo 10, launched May 18, 1969.

2The President watched the July 16, 1969, launch of the Apollo 11 on television in his office in the White House but was present for the completion of the mission at splashdown and recovery in the Pacific.

But I speak of him more than that, not only the leader of his country, its chief of state, but as one who has a deep concern for people all over the world. All of us who know him personally know of that concern. Whether it be the people of Africa or Asia or Latin America or any of the underdeveloped areas, I know of no leader who speaks more eloquently or feels more deeply about the problems of those less fortunate people than does His Majesty the King.

Also, I think we are very honored to have him here because he represents the cause of peace which has been so important to his people in the history of his country, the history I referred to earlier today.

He spoke of that history 10 years ago when he addressed the Congress in this very month. He said then that it takes 20 years or more of peace to make a man, and it takes only 20 seconds of war to destroy him.

So, it is altogether appropriate that NATO--the greatest peacekeeping force that the world has ever seen--has its home in his country and that he and his people have welcomed it there and provided the support for it, not only in their capacity as members, but also in their capacity as the home of the NATO Offices.

Now, another reason we are very honored to have His Majesty back with us is that something has been added to his visit this time that was not here before.

I remember sitting by him in the White House on that occasion--President Eisenhower sat in this chair, the King sat in that chair, and I think I was in the one next to it. But Queen Fabiola was not with him then because she was not his wife at that time. But I think you will note the character of the music today, with the Spanish overtones. She reminded me, as did His Majesty, of the luncheon menu: the first item--and you will pardon my pronunciation--l'Andalouse, which is of course the province in which Her Majesty the Queen grew up in Spain; and then of course we have veau bruxelloise--I will not try to pronounce it the way it read here, but to cap the meal off today we have had mousse Fabiola. However the mousse tastes and however beautiful, I am sure you will agree that the Queen is much more lovely.

For these and many other reasons we are delighted to welcome Their Majesties here today, and I know that you will be pleased to rise with me and raise our glasses to Their Majesties, the King and Queen of Belgium.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 2:30 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

King Baudouin responded as follows:

Mr. President:

My gratitude for the charming words you have just addressed to me. I would like to be able to express myself as graciously, to let you know how we feel in our hearts toward our hosts.

Two days ago we had the privilege to live the tremendous experience of the Apollo shot. I promise you, it inspired us beyond words. We appreciate the President's kind invitation, your generous hospitality. With this, you have added yet to the warm welcome.

It is for us a rare pleasure to be received by you and Mrs. Nixon in such a select and nice company. For all this, we thank you greatly.

Ladies and gentlemen, I raise my glass to the President of the United States and Mrs. Nixon, to their family, and to the happiness of the people of the United States of America.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and King Baudouin of Belgium. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/239177

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