Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Toasts of the President and King Paul of Greece

October 28, 1953

Your Majesty the King, and Your Majesty the Queen, distinguished guests of two nations:

This house is honored this evening in the privilege of entertaining the heads of a state to which all Western civilization will be forever indebted.

Now this evening I shall not weary you with reciting those things which every schoolboy and every schoolgirl knows about the great achievements of Greece in science and art and philosophy. In all those things they have helped to make our Nation's and other Western Nations' civilization what it is.

Rather, I should like to talk for just a second about modern Greece. In this time, when all the world is divided by virtue of a struggle between those who believe in the essential dignity of man as a creature created in the image of his God, and those who contend that man is nothing but a pawn, a creature of the state, and has no reason for existence except as he can glorify that temporal power of the state, Greece ranks high as a champion on the side of human dignity and freedom.

As World War II started, Greece asked no favor except the opportunity to stand for those rights in which it believed, and it gave to the world an example of battle--although temporarily a losing one--a battle that thrilled the hearts of all free men and free women everywhere.

Because of that example, because of the privilege that has been mine and Mrs. Eisenhower's in knowing these two, the heads of the Greek state, the Government of the United States this evening is requesting a privilege of His Majesty the King, to accept from us an honor--the highest decoration that in time of peace our Government can confer upon a citizen of another country.

And with your indulgence, I shall read the Citation:

"The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 20, 1942 has awarded the Legion of Merit, Degree of Chief Commander to Paul I, the King of the Hellenes, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services.

"Paul I, King of the Hellenes, has made a personal contribution of the greatest importance to the warm friendship between his people and the people of the United States. His devotion to the ideals which are shared by Greece and the United States has been reflected in the resolute manner in which he has led his people in the defense of those ideals against great physical odds. His interest in and support of unity of the free nations have been a magnificent example to his people who have willingly assumed the burdens of those who must guard freedom." Signed by the President.

Your Majesty, as I hand this to you, I am going to ask the company to rise and with me drink a Toast to Your Majesty the King and Your Majesty the Queen of Greece.

Note: The President proposed this toast at 9:55 p.m. at a state dinner at the White House. King Paul responded as follows:

Mr. President, your warm and gracious words and the great honor you have just bestowed on me, have deeply moved me, and I am sure that the Queen shares my feeling.

Your invitation to us to visit your great country has not only given us the greatest pleasure, but has also been a source of deep satisfaction to my people. For your gesture clearly demonstrates to all that the people of America are mindful of the sacrifices and efforts which the people of Greece have made in the cause of freedom and democracy.

From Greece, the land in which democracy was born, I bring you the salute of my people, to whom, allow me to say, Mr. President, you have long been a familiar and loved figure. But today we salute, in you, the head of the nation which leads the democratic world in the struggle against totalitarian aggression. In this effort, which requires patience and determination, we are completely and wholeheartedly at your side.

You know, Mr. President, that my people fought a 10 years' war against the forces of destruction. They defeated the Fascists in Albania. It was the first allied victory against the Axis. They resisted the Nazis to the bitter end. Their spirit was not broken by 4 years of devastating occupation. And then when other countries were beginning to enjoy the benefits of peace, a new and more horrible form of invasion came to ravage my desolated country. We stood up to resist this too, and America gave us the material equipment to do so, but the Greeks gave their hearts and their strength and their lives to fight the invader. Greece is the first democratic country which completely defeated full-scale aggression by militant communism. We shall never forget that America came to our aid so generously in that hour of desperate crisis.

The reason why the Greek people have been able to go on fighting for so many years against such odds, and in the face of such overwhelming disaster, is that we believe, with all the faith of which we are capable, in the principles of freedom and democracy which are our ancient heritage.

That is why, when this menace appeared thousands of miles from our shores, the young men of Greece volunteered to fight in Korea, where I believe you will agree they have acquitted themselves well.

Your invitation to the Queen and to me to visit this wonderful country was enthusiastically welcomed by my people as an opportunity for us to express the gratitude of all of us to all the citizens of America for their understanding and assistance.

May I add, Mr. President, with some pride, that in the civil as well as the military field American aid is yielding fruit that cannot but be highly gratifying to the American taxpayer who has made considerable sacrifices on our behalf.

Not only have we defeated aggressors in war, but we are now building Greece into one of the bulwarks of democracy, strong politically, and a progressive and constructive administration, strong economically and strong militarily, presenting a firm barrier against further aggression in an area vital to the West.

In defending freedom and democracy with all our strength, we believe in my country--as you do in yours-that material power while very necessary is not in itself sufficient, that the true strength of our civilization lies in its spiritual and moral values.

It is a comfort and an inspiration to all of us to realize that this belief is fully shared and earnestly expressed by all the leaders of the American Nation. It is in this spirit that we place our trust in the vitality and excellence of our common institutions and traditions in the ultimate prevalence of good. And above all, we place our trust in God.

Mr. President, may I thank you once more for the honor you have bestowed on me, and through me to my country. And may I drink to your health, and my best wishes to you and to Mrs. Eisenhower.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Toasts of the President and King Paul of Greece Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232306

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