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Toasts of the President and President Pompidou of France at a Dinner at the French Embassy

February 25, 1970

Mr. President, Madame Pompidou, our distinguished guests this evening:

When I was in Paris almost a year ago, I recall that on the occasion of one of the dinners I attended my instructions indicated that I, as the President of the United States, was to speak for 5 minutes and then "his remarks would be translated into English."

Since that time, I have tried to learn English a little better.

And tonight I will speak in English, but I can assure you that Colonel, or General Walters--[laughter]--he was a Colonel when I first knew him in Caracas--General Waiters' French will be much better than my English.1

Mr. President, this is the first occasion that Mrs. Nixon and I have had the opportunity, the honor, of visiting an embassy since the inauguration a year ago.

And it is for us a very moving occasion, because it brings back memories of those many times that we were in this house before, of the people that were here, of the hospitality that we felt.

It is hard to describe how one feels in this bit of French soil in America. Let me describe it this way: There are those in this country who hire a French chef and serve French wines and French food, and who dress with French fashions, and decorate their rooms with French style, but only in this Embassy, or in France itself, can there be that spirit, that extra feeling that one gets when he truly feels the hospitality of a French welcome.

And that is why we are very happy to be here tonight in your presence and in the presence of this company, because again we feel the spirit that we have always felt in this Embassy, and also in those places in France that we have visited.

And if I could be permitted one reference that may not be exactly relevant to the meetings of heads of state, but which I think is very important to an occasion like this, let me pay tribute tonight to the diplomats who are present.

I think of the past, men like Bonnet and Alphand who have been in this house; I think of those in this room, Ambassador Lucet, of our own Secretary Rogers, Foreign Minister Schumann, I think of our other Ambassadors, Ambassador Bohlen, Ambassador John Sherman Cooper, I think of those who represent other countries, the dean of the diplomatic corps, these men who work day-in and day-out for the cause of peace, and I should mention Ambassador Johnson, who served in Tokyo.2

2 Henri Bonnet and Herve Alphand, French Ambassadors to the United States, 1944-1954 and 1956-1965, respectively; Charles Lucet, current French Ambassador; Maurice Schumann, French Minister of Foreign Affairs; Charles Bohlen, U.S. Ambassador to France, 1962-1968; Senator John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky, U.S. Ambassador to India and Nepal, 1955-1956; Guillermo Sevilla-Sacasa, Ambassador from Nicaragua since 1943 and dean of the Washington diplomatic corps; and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs U. Alexis Johnson, Ambassador to Japan, 1966-1969.

And on such an occasion like this, we think of the work that they do, the contributions they make that do not often reach the headlines, but that lay the foundation for the success of the kind of talks that you and I will have at the highest level. And we, therefore, pay tribute to them tonight.

I also would like to mention briefly a bit of American history that many perhaps have forgotten. In 1814, when the White House was burned partially and was under repair, the French Minister, who had a very fine residence in Washington at that time, invited the President of the United States, President Madison and Dolley Madison, his wife, the First Lady, to stay in his house.

And for one year the French Minister's residence in Washington was the residence of the President of the United States. And, therefore, as we come here tonight, we feel, as Thomas Jefferson said many years ago, that for every American, he has two homes, France and his own.

And I would say that we do not expect that the White House will be burned during our term of office. But if it is burned, there is no house that we would rather come and stay in. [Applause]

Mr. President, our talks will continue tomorrow. They are on that direct personal basis which you appreciate and like, and that I appreciate and like, and for that reason they will produce the results in terms of real progress on fundamental issues that we want.

But tonight, I know that I speak for all of us here from the United States when I say that we are grateful for the years that we have enjoyed the friendship of your country and of your people for this Nation, and we are very proud that we can be here tonight in this house, in this house, the Embassy of France.

And having mentioned the Ambassadors who are in this room, who have served in various posts, I also would mention our own Ambassador to France [Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr.], his fine service to our Nation, and how very happy we are to have him here to be honored with us on this occasion.

And now, if you will permit me, if I could try the French that I learned 35 years ago:

Vive la France. Vive le President Pompidou!

1 Maj. Gen. Vernon A. Waiters, American military attaché at the American Embassy in Paris, who was serving as the President's interpreter.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 10: 15 p.m. in response to a toast proposed by President Pompidou.

See also Items 52, 53, 59, 60, and 65.

President Pompidou's remarks, as translated from the French, follow:

Mr. President, Madame:

Your presence here tonight in this house of France is for us a great joy, indeed, and for my country a great honor.

We see in that the sign of the friendship uniting the United States and France, as well as my trip in your great country is supposed to be the sign of the same thing and very deeply.

You know very well that between us perhaps the sentimental side is more important than the political one, which sometimes may be fraught with difficulties, but during the talks we already have had with you, and I am sure during the talks which we are still going to have, I was in a position to note, and will observe, that you and I, we understand each other very well and that we agree on what is fundamental and essential.

And even when sometimes we do not speak exactly on the same line or according to the same waves, we do understand what we mean and what we mean to do.

Of course, I have noted that it was enough for us to speak together in order to understand each other.

Today, you are here among us and for me this is a great opportunity to tell you how deeply, during these 2 days which I have spent in your great country, I have been moved by the welcome which I have received from everybody, from all the American authorities, from Congressmen, and from all the people I have met.

And I would like to seize this opportunity to thank all those who are here tonight with us.

And it is as a friend that I am here. It is as a friend that I have these talks with you, quite outspoken and free and frank, on all the world's issues. It is as a friend that I am going to continue this trip throughout your country and it is as a friend that I ask you all now to raise' your glass to drink to the health of the President of the United States of America, to the health of Mrs. Nixon, in honor of the United States and to the friendship between the United States and France.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and President Pompidou of France at a Dinner at the French Embassy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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