John F. Kennedy photo

Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Gerhardsen of Norway

May 09, 1962

Ladies and gentlemen:

I know that you all join me in expressing our very warm welcome to our distinguished visitors, the Prime Minister and his wife.

It is almost "sad" that there are so few issues which are causing intense controversy between Norway and the United States--an unaccustomed feeling as I welcomed the Prime Minister here. We searched all morning in an attempt to find something that would cause "alarm" in both capitals. But, Prime Minister, we are very proud to have you here.

You have been preceded, as you know, by many thousands of your countrymen. The Prime Minister was generous enough to bring to me a model of a ship which contained the first group of Norwegian immigrants. It was intended to hold 25, and I think 45 came--a baby was born on the way. They were arrested when they arrived, because they were overcrowded, and John Quincy Adams, from one of our great States, was instrumental as President in exercising his executive influence and having them freed.

As you know, they did not stay in the East but went to the Middle West and the West. A good many of the things which we now take for granted in the field of social legislation-unemployment insurance, social security, the cooperative movement--a good many of these very basic parts of our national life today originated in the influence of the Scandinavian community, of which the Norwegians were most active, coming out as they did, a good many of them, from Wisconsin and the Dakotas and all the rest.

So this has been a most progressive and effective force in our national life in many different ways. In addition, the Norwegian people and government themselves have been closely associated with the United States--in the War, in NATO, in OECD; and now the Norwegian Government is moving closer and playing a full and most effective and valuable role in the development of the great European community.

Norway lives on the precipice of the ocean. The Prime Minister pointed out this morning that only about 4 percent of their land is arable, so they have always looked to the sea. That sea, and their part in it, is one of the most exciting heritage's of all of us who are at heart romantic.

So we are very glad to have the Prime Minister and his wife here, and the members of their party. We value very much our association with your Ambassador and his wife. We value our friendship with your country. You are, Prime Minister, among the warmest of friends, and I hope that all of you will join in drinking to His Majesty the King.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a luncheon in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his response (through an interpreter) Prime Minister Gerhardsen conveyed "warm greetings from His Majesty the King" to President and Mrs. Kennedy. He referred to "the deep and friendly feelings that we in Norway have towards the American people. . . . Norwegians came to regard the United States as the land of liberty and of human rights, a land which had blazed a trail for all people living in a state of oppression or under foreign rulers. In this connection, I should like to mention the great role which the American ideals of freedom played for our Founding Fathers, who in 1814 gave Norway her constitution.

"In the course of the nineteenth century, more than half a million Norwegians, out of a population of less than two millions, left their native land to build a new future in the New World on the other side of the Atlantic. The hundreds of thousands of family links between Norwegians and Americans on either side of the Atlantic have played an important role in creating the feeling of close kinship that Norwegians today feel for the American people.

"These bonds, and the confidence we today place in the United States have, however, another and even deeper foundation. These feelings do also spring from our gratitude and admiration for the decisive contribution which the United States has made in the service of liberty and justice in two world wars. In the second of these wars, we were proud to be your allies.

"These feelings grew even deeper in the years following the Second World War, when the United States helped a war-torn and economically paralyzed Europe to get on its feet again, through the generous, farsighted program of aid which so rightly bears the name of the great General Marshall. The Marshall plan and the close economic cooperation it prompted in Europe played an essential role in the postwar economic reconstruction and development of Norway. I should like to say to all Americans today that we shall not forget the aid we received, and what it has meant to our country."

The Prime Minister closed by emphasizing the need for the maintenance of peace through NATO and other regional security pacts and through the United Nations.

John F. Kennedy, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Gerhardsen of Norway Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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