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Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Edward Heath of the United Kingdom at a Dinner During Their Meetings in Bermuda

December 20, 1971

Mr. Prime Minister, Your Excellency the Governor, gentlemen:

I could well respond to the Prime Minister's remarks by saying, as I can, with great conviction, that I agree with every word that he has uttered. However, I think the occasion demands a bit more than that because of its historic significance, and so it is important on such an occasion that I, on my part, state on behalf of all of our officials who are here, our appreciation for the hospitality that has been extended and our hopes for the future as that future will be affected by this meeting.

First, I think we will all agree that we could not have selected a better place in which to meet, as far as its historical significance.

The Prime Minister had some marvelous historical anecdotes with regard to Bermuda. I think the best one that our staff was able to think up was one from Mark Twain. Mark Twain once visited Bermuda, and he said to a friend at the conclusion of his visit, he said, "You may want to go to heaven, but I would rather stay here." So the closest thing to heaven, certainly on this earth and this hemisphere, on such an occasion like this, is Bermuda.

Then, too, the place that we are meeting, this beautiful ship, the fact that it is Her Majesty's Navy, it seems to me, that that choice must have been made when the Prime Minister did his usual careful checking of the backgrounds of those who would be here--not only the President of the United States and his guests, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury, were all former naval people.

But whatever the case might be, what really made me realize that he was going the extra mile in picking the place and picking this ship, was when I found that the motto of this ship is "Aim For The Highest." That just happens to be the motto of the Secretary of the Treasury, also.

As I was talking and reminiscing with a great deal of appreciation about the association we had during World War II, our two countries, and the friendships we developed, I was thinking of what is called that special relationship between Britain and the United States. I was thinking of how Bermuda fitted into that relationship, and the fact that we are the fourth of four very historic meetings that have been held here: 1953, Prime Minister Churchill and President Eisenhower; 1957, President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Macmillan; 1961, President Kennedy and Prime Minister Macmillan; and now Prime Minister Heath and I.

As I thought of those dates, and of the probable agendas of those meetings, I thought in terms of how much the world has changed, not simply since 1953 or since 1961--I thought of how much the world has changed, and I have tried to think in terms of that special relationship between Britain and the United States which has existed for so long and to what extent that relationship still is healthy, maturing, and, also, necessary.

On the one hand, it would be quite easy to gain the impression, through a superficial examination, that the relationship had not only changed, as the Prime Minister has already suggested, but that it perhaps no longer was relevant. Because on the one side, with the Prime Minister's courageous leadership, Britain is now entering the European Community, and as it enters Europe, its relationship with us will be one which is, of course, new in many respects, but necessarily will affect its relationship with the United States and other countries also.

On the other hand, we find that the President of the United States will be visiting this year Peking and Moscow. So a superficial examination of those events would say, on the one hand, the British are moving to Europe, and on the other hand, the United States is moving toward Moscow and toward Peking, and, therefore, what happens to the relationship, the relationship which meant so much in 1953, in 1957, and 1961? Is it still something that can be talked about? Is it still the same?

The answer, of course, is, it is not the same. The fact that it is not the same does not mean that it is still not very necessary, and perhaps even more important than it was. I say that for this reason: We do live in a changing world. We live in a world, as we all know, in which powers that were not important just a few years ago now have become enormously important. We live in a world where there are dangers on the scene today that no one could foresee 25 years ago, at the end of World War II, or even 10 years ago in 1961.

We also live in a world where there are great opportunities, opportunities in terms of building the structure of peace which may not have existed even 5 years ago.

So, as the Prime Minister, with his colleagues, with his Government, seeks to explore those opportunities in Europe, as we, in our own policies, seek to explore those opportunities for building a structure of peace by these significant journeys to nations with which we have now and will continue to have very fundamental and profound differences of philosophy, we look again back to that relationship between the two of us--what comes home on such a day as this, if I may speak in personal terms, the 5 hours today the Prime Minister and I talked, that was really a full, far-ranging discussion. And all the diplomatic words--"a very candid," "straightforward," "frank" exchange of views--could be applied to it.

What impressed me at the conclusion of that discussion was not the fact that there were some tactical differences, but the fact that after we had discussed virtually all the problems in this complex world, in this changing world, that there are certain fundamental facts that have not changed in the relationship between Britain and the United States.

We all know we share a common language. We share the common law. But what is more important is that we have, without question, dedication to principles that are uncommon, uncommon because they are transcendent and because they are ones to which we, whatever journeys we may make in the world, whatever new initiatives we may undertake separately, they are principles to which we will always have dedication.

We know, therefore, that when we talk, we begin with a devotion to the freedom of men, a devotion to economic progress in a climate of freedom, and a devotion to building a structure of peace in which all nations may have the right to their independence without infringement by other nations, great or small.

These could be just words. They are usually spoken on such occasions as this. But I can assure you that after one of the most fruitful discussions that it has been my privilege to have since holding this Office, that I have been reassured of the fact that that special relationship--special in the sense of a dedication to principles that are inalienable, indestructible, and which will be here long after all of us are gone-that that relationship is as strong now, and even more necessary now than ever before. Because as the world changes, as the forces of power and the balances of power shift throughout the world, it is even more vital that these principles to which our Nation and the British people have been devoted throughout our history, that those principles be maintained, that we believe in them, that we sacrifice for them, and that we work together to see that they prevail, whatever our journeys may be, together or separately.

For that reason, I believe that this meeting has been, along with its predecessors, an historic meeting. I believe it will serve a useful purpose. I believe that it builds that kind of foundation on which our two countries can go forward together in different ways, at times, toward the same great goal of a world of peace in which people can live in freedom and have progress without infringement by other peoples.

Because of that kind of ideal, may I say that on this occasion, while it is normally the custom to, as we have, very properly, toast the Queen, we have toasted the President of the United States, I think that all of you would like to join me in a toast to our host, the Prime Minister. Mr. Prime Minister.

Note: The President spoke at 9:20 p.m. on board the British guided missile destroyer H. M. S. Glamorgan in response to a toast proposed by Prime Minister Heath.

Excerpts of the Prime Minister's remarks, made available by the British Embassy in Washington, follow:

. . . We are meeting at a time of great monetary and economic problems but also great political problems. These are the problems of a world that is changing more now than at any time in the last 25 years.

These problems call for careful examination and discussion. Whether we are talking about the monetary system, commercial practices, defence, or relations between East and West, this is the way that we must proceed between friends. You, Mr. President, are having a whole series of meetings with world leaders. There are also to be meetings among the Six 1 and between the Six and others.

We in the West must never forget our responsibilities towards the Third World. The developing nations, too, must be part of this process of discussion and examination. Their interests must be taken fully into account in any decisions.

. . . A healthy relationship can withstand change, and, as the date of Britain's entry into the European Community approaches, there will indeed be some changes in our relations. I see no cause for alarm or dismay in this. In many fields our traditional tics will remain unchanged. We have always made it clear that we believe that a united Europe should maintain the closest possible links with the United States, based on the vast area of common interests which we shall continue to share.

1 The Six, member countries of the European Economic Community, were Belgium, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Edward Heath of the United Kingdom at a Dinner During Their Meetings in Bermuda Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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