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Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom at a Dinner at the British Embassy

February 20, 1985

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, ladies and gentlemen, it's a very special occasion, indeed, and a great honor to Britain when the President of the United States and the First Lady, together with such a glittering company, come to dinner at Her Majesty's Ambassador's residence. We welcome you here this evening, sir.

In this year 1985, it adds splendor to an important anniversary in our relations. In 1785 John Adams, the first American Envoy to Britain, was formally received by King George III and thus opened 200 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries.

Of course, there have been a few changes in diplomacy since then. [Laughter] And I'm told there is a memorandum surviving in the Smithsonian from President Jefferson to his Secretary of State in which he wrote as follows: "We haven't heard anything from our Ambassador to France for three years." [Laughter] "If we don't hear from him this year"— [laughter] —"let us write him a letter." [Laughter]

Of course, American Ambassadors in London have been much more communicative than American Ambassadors in Paris. But, no doubt, Charles Price, who is such a good Ambassador to London, and Oliver Wright, who I believe is such a good Ambassador here, sometimes wish they still lived in such an easygoing world.

I've discovered another interesting fact. American Ambassadors to London tend to go places. Five of them, including John Adams and his son, became Presidents of the United States. And eight became Secretaries of State. Well, Charlie, we'll be watching you. [Laughter] But for the avoidance of doubt, Geoffrey Howe1 and I would like to remind Oliver Wright that there is no such tradition with ours. [Laughter]

Perhaps I should also mention that 1985 marks the 200th anniversary of a famous British institution—the Times newspaper. And one of the first reports carried by The Times, shortly after its launching, was of the reception given to John Adams when he presented his credentials, not that John Adams himself found that an exactly comfortable occasion. What worried him most was that he would have to make a complimentary speech about King George III, and that wasn't calculated to endear him to the folks at home at that time. [Laughter]

But this evening, Mr. President, I've no such inhibitions about being complimentary about everything about the United States. We in Britain think you are a wonderful President. And from one old hand to another, welcome to a second term. [Laughter]

And Dennis will be saying exactly the same to Nancy. And neither of us could have done what we've done without them.

I remember with pride and with gratitude many occasions we've shared during your first term: the Williamsburg summit, with all its pageantry and history; your powerful and moving address to the assembled Lords and Commons in London in the Royal Gallery; your visit to us last year for the London Economic Summit; and most recently, my expedition to Camp David.

We've always found it easy to discuss great matters together. We see so many things in the same way. We share so many of the same goals and a determination to achieve them, which you summed up so well—and, alas, I cannot imitate this wonderful American English accent—"You ain't seen nothin' yet." [Laughter]

Mr. President, over the 200 years that our countries have dealt with each other, it's not always been plain sailing. But one thing has not changed: The joint common sense, which is an essential part of our common heritage, has led the two Governments to resolve their differences and to work constructively together for our common purpose. Our joint interests prevailed, and I know they will continue to prevail.

There's a union of mind and purpose between our peoples, which is remarkable and which makes our relationship truly a special one. I'm often asked if it's special and why. And I say it is special—it just is—and that's that. As Winston once said—Winston Churchill—"The experience of a long life and the promptings of my blood have wrought in me the conviction that there is nothing more important for the future of the world than the fraternal association of our two peoples in righteous work both in war and peace." No one could put it better than that.

Let us look forward with confidence to the next 200 years of Anglo-American friendship, to an enduring and confident alliance, and to peace and freedom for today's and future generations.

May I ask you to rise and drink a toast-the President of the United States of America—the President. The President.

The President. Prime Minister, Vice President Bush, Secretary of State, Defense Secretary, Saint Oliver—or Sir Oliver. Saint Oliver? No, Sir Oliver— [laughter] —and Lady Wright, and ladies and gentlemen. Tonight, as we've just been told—and I have to preface this by saying, based on the career that I once had before this one, you are a very tough act to follow. [Laughter] Tonight we celebrate, as we've been told, 200 years of diplomatic relations between Great Britain and the United States.

For two centuries, we've been trading partners. We've stood together through two great world conflicts. Forty years ago last summer, Americans and Englishmen joined together in an invasion launched from Britain, the greatest invasion in all of man's history; together, we fought on the sands of Normandy. And together we reclaimed a continent to liberty.

Prime Minister, the United States and the United Kingdom are bound together by inseparable ties of ancient history and present friendship. Our language, our law—even though you do use our language with an accent— [laughter] —our law, our democratic system of government, and our fierce belief in the God-given right of all men to be free—all of these the United States shares with your proud island.

We share a deep affection for one another. But then, there've been a few moments in our history when relations were not so smooth. I remember being tempted to recall one of those at the summit conference at Williamsburg, where the opening meeting was a dinner in what had been the British Colonial Governor's residence. And I thought that I was all set to open the summit because when we were seated around the table—the heads of seven states—I was going to say to Margaret Thatcher that had one of her predecessors been a little more clever she would have been hosting the gathering. [Laughter]

And, so, with my well-thought-out line, I opened—that if one of her predecessors had been a little more clever, and she turned to me and said, "I know. I would have been the host." [Laughter] So, I'm careful. But, anyway, Margaret, welcome back to America.

In our discussions, I have, as always, been delighted by the vigor, the clarity, and the directness of your views. And I've wanted to tell you that when I ran for office in 1980 I was greatly encouraged by the victory that you won in 1979. And it was very thoughtful of you to set me another good example in 1983. [Laughter] We've been inspired by your leadership.

Sir Oliver and Lady Wright, thank you for hosting this splendid event. Nancy and I are honored to be here. We celebrate tonight our past and our future. Great challenges loom ahead, and we must do all that we can to expand human freedom and unleash the great potential for economic growth both in our countries and throughout the world.

In our own countries we've already done much to free our economies from the dead hand of government control. But we can do more. Here in America, we're determined to reduce spending growth and significantly reduce tax rates further by simplifying our entire tax structure. in international commerce, our task is to knock down barriers to trade and foreign investment and to the free movement of capital. And I look forward to working with you on these matters, as we prepare for the 11th Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations in Bonn.

In foreign affairs we and our NATO allies have stayed strong, while demonstrating our openness to genuine arms reductions. And Prime Minister Thatcher, I know you share my satisfaction that the Soviets have agreed to return to the bargaining table. And now we must press on together for success in mutual and verifiable arms reductions and a more secure peace.

We believe that our Strategic Defense Initiative represents the most hopeful possibility of the nuclear age. And we greatly appreciate your support. In many areas of this research, technical progress appears very promising. And we're eager to be joined in this research by our allies and look forward to collaborating with you.

It's hard to be here on this candlelit evening and your stately Embassy without thinking of the great men and women-British and American—who've gone before us and who've worked together as we do today. I think of F.D.R. and Churchill conferring in the rain. Roosevelt deeply admired his friend, Winston. And many of us remember the warmth John Kennedy felt for Harold Macmillan and Macmillan's grief after Kennedy's tragic death. There's been something very special about the friendships between the leaders of our two countries. And may I say to my friend the Prime Minister, I'd like to add two more names to this list of affection Thatcher and Reagan.

Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, mindful of the two centuries of diplomatic relations that our two nations have enjoyed and grateful for our common heritage of liberty and in a spirit of celebration, please join me in a toast to your gracious Sovereign, to Her Majesty the Queen.

1 Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Note: Prime Minister Thatcher spoke at approximately 9:33 p.m.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom at a Dinner at the British Embassy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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