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Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada

March 24, 1969

Mr. Prime Minister, and our distinguished guests:

In any new administration, every moment becomes a historical moment when it occurs. And this, Mr. Prime Minister, is a historical moment in this room because this is the first State dinner that has been held in this room since the new administration came to office.

We are very proud and honored that we can honor you and the people of Canada through this dinner.

In speaking in that vein, I also would like to point out that we have a number of reasons that you have a special place in our hearts, not only your people, but you, personally.

As I sat here in this room, I thought of the many moments that I have been here before, and I have heard on occasions President Eisenhower toast Winston Churchill and President de Gaulle, Konrad Adenauer, Prime Minister Nehru, the leaders of great nations all over the world.

Each of those was a very special occasion and each of those men and each of those nations had a special place in our hearts. But none has the really unique relationship that we have with our guests tonight.

I was thinking, for example, of the fact that during the years I was Vice President, along with my wife, I visited many countries on official visits, about 30 or 35. And I pointed out to the Prime Minister I had never made an official visit to Canada.

The reason was that I was only sent to those countries where we had trouble. And at that time, at least, we did not seem to have troubles that were so significant as to require my presence--or maybe they thought that if I ;vent we would create troubles that were not ever there.

But despite the fact that we have missed the official visit, going back over the years, as I imagine every person in this room from the United States will probably be able to say: "We recall the times we have been to Canada and the warm welcomes we have received in Vancouver, in Quebec, Montreal, St. John's, Toronto, and Ottawa." And as we recall those moments and those associations, we realize how fortunate we are to have such good friends and neighbors along the longest boundary in the world.

I could speak more of the relationships of our two countries, but that will be covered in other speeches and communiqués and the rest.

I can only say that in this room tonight, Mr. Prime Minister, are people from all walks of life, from business and from labor, from the field of education, from the field of politics, Democrats and Republicans. But they are all as one in their affection for your country and in the respect for you.

And now, if it will not be embarrassing to the Prime Minister, I would like to say a personal word about him. And don't be worried. I can assure you that having sometimes been in this position myself of wondering what was coming up next, I will be careful with what I say.

But I was thinking of those many accolades that as an American, and particularly as an American political leader, we could pass on to you. I can refer to the fact that you are a distinguished political philosopher. I could refer to the fact that you are a distinguished member of the bar, eminently successful.

But since this is a room in which there are many from political life, what is the most impressive factor in your achievements to date is your political leadership.

When I think that the Prime Minister entered politics in 1965 and within 4 years became the head of government, believe me, for one for whom it took 22 long years to get here, we have, sir, for you the greatest respect for that political leadership which you have provided.

I do not need to say--and I do not say this simply because you are here--that you have been for your own people a very exciting personality, and you have been for the people of the United States.

We are glad to get to know you better. We are happy to exchange views with you. We particularly appreciate the opportunity to get the benefit of your thinking not only on the bilateral problems which we usually work out effectively and successfully, but on the great problems that will determine the future of all of us who live on this planet.

I was delighted in the long talk that I had with the Prime Minister today to find that here was a man who had the vision to see beyond the net election and to see what kind of continent we would have 25 years from now, 30 years from now. And on that great issue there can be no difference, fundamentally, in the goals that we seek--the people of the United States and the people of your country.

And so to all of our friends tonight, I would ask you to rise and to join me, as is the custom, in two toasts: first, Canada, as one of the strong members of the British Commonwealth, Her Majesty, The Queen; and then to our honored guest this evening, the Prime Minister of Canada.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 9:58 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House at a dinner in honor of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau of Canada.

See also Items 124 and 127.

Prime Minister Trudeau responded as follows:

Mr. President and Mrs. Nixon, distinguished guests:

You do me great honor, Mr. President, in drinking my health. And the kind words you have spoken about me are all the more welcome and moving that they come not only from the head of the country which is Canada's best friend and ally, but they come from a man who has shown through his years in politics, 22, you said, Mr. President--that is about six times longer than myself, but then your country is ten times greater so it probably works out-a man who has shown that he could occupy many of the elective offices of his land and who now holds the highest elective office in his country, your country, the greatest, the most powerful on earth, a man who has served his country well with devotion, with knowledge, with wisdom, with fortitude, with courage, a man who has been persistent, a man who has been sincere and faithful.

For these reasons, sir, I thank you for your welcome. And I want to say that being one of Gallic descent, I have particular affinity for things American as I think the Americans have for things French and Gallic.

There is a saying, I know, in your land that every good American when he dies goes to Paris. I would suggest, Mr. President, that many of your fellow countrymen have not waited until they die nor until they be good to find Paris.

But I would be remiss in my duty if I didn't suggest that there is a very easy and pleasant alternative much closer at hand, Montreal, which welcomes all Americans and which would welcome you, Mr. President.

I hope you will be visiting our country as soon as your office permits. I can assure you you will be very welcome there. I can't guarantee that there will be no trouble. I can't guarantee it for myself. But as one new politician to a more mature one, I can tell you that we will take our chances together. And I think that the Canadian people will show you how much they respect and admire the President of the United States of America.

Every year many Americans come to Canada and the same number, more or less, of Canadians come to the United States--70 million border crossings last year, Mr. President.

We all come to the United States in pursuit of happiness of one kind or another. When I was a student and a younger man I pursued a different kind of happiness.

We come here, though, also to seek knowledge, to learn from your greater technology, from your great advances in science, from your great universities; we learn also from the hospitality of your people and from the great ideals and institutions that the leaders of your country have set up as models for humanity over the years.

We learn these things and we respect you for that. As one man who is a former Harvard graduate and coming to Washington at the beginning of a new administration, I can promise that I will stay less long than some others.

But I will say that many of the things that I learned in one of your great schools was about this fine sense of balance that the Americans had shown in their ideals and in their institutions and how from the very early days they tackled and solved this problem of eternal conflict between liberty and the rule of law, between the need for authority and the need for individual freedoms, how they tackled the problem of the individual wanting to be alone and yet needing society, and how over the decades and over the years your country has been able to adapt and meet these changes.

And I think all foreign students of your country come to admire most this great vitality, this toughness, this resilience of your great society and how rather than be too influenced by its mother country-of course you had a rather violent parting with your mother country, Mr. President. But we are perhaps in Canada a little bit too inclined to borrow from England and borrow from France. But you went out on your own and you invented this great institution of modern federalism, and you found this balance in your institutions between freedom and order.

That is why today when we see the mighty upheavals in your society we know you will meet them. We know you will find solutions and because you are so far ahead of other industrial societies we know that we will be able to learn from the lessons that you will give other nations who are trying to acquire this great industrial status.

We will learn from your errors. We will learn from your successes. And we know we will always have a helping hand in the United States.

There have been for so many years now', Mr. President, no tensions between our countries. It was your first President, George Washington, in his farewell address, who said that passionate relationships between one country and another engendered a host of evils.

Well, for a long time there have been no passionate relationships between our countries. There have been relationships based on discussion, on reason, on, as you put it this morning, sir, in welcoming me, the excitement of diversity. But always we have solved these through discussion, through reasonable men getting together and sometimes reasonable women getting together asking ourselves about our problem and seeking the best solution for everyone concerned.

And we know this will be the way of the future. I have learned in our discussions this morning, Mr. President, and this afternoon. I have seen how this will still be the pattern of relationship between our countries, a pattern based on wisdom rather than passion, a pattern based on a desire to understand rather than to dominate.

It was a Frenchman, de Tocqueville, who first described I think in a very able way the kind of delicate balance that the United States ideals and institutions were able to put forward. And he had a phrase, si vous me permettez de traduire un peu librement, which went about like this: That you don't receive truth from your enemies and your friends are rarely willing to offer it. "It is for this reason," he said, "that I have written these books."

Well, Mr. President, we are the kind of friends who do tell the truth to each other. We have told it this morning. I am sure we will tell it in the future.

We find that this kind of relationship is the only basis on which nations of the world can live in peace together--in understanding.

I want to say also how grateful I am to you, Mrs. Nixon, for your very gracious hospitality, for the wonderful food, the lovely flowers, and the exciting music. I feel almost as though I am among old friends. I hope we will become such.

But I do want to, in thanking you, ask the ladies and gentlemen assembled to drink your continued good health, sir, to drink the health of not only Canada's closest neighbor, the head of state which is Canada's closest neighbor, our longstanding ally, but also the health of a friend, President Nixon of the United States.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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