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Toasts of the President and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands at the State Dinner

April 19, 1982

The President. Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, distinguished guests:

This evening we welcome you to the White House realizing that this is a special occasion even for this house, steeped in tradition as it is.

The history of our two countries will undoubtedly record that on this date, the 200th anniversary of our diplomatic relations, the Queen of the Netherlands was our guest at a state dinner in the White House. We thank the Dutch people for sharing you with us. You're the third successive Queen of the Netherlands to grace our Nation's Capital. We look forward to many such visits from you and from your heirs, because if any friendship is lasting and true, it is the one between our two peoples.

The Dutch played a significant role in developing America and shaping our national character. When thinking of this, images come to mind of Henry Hudson, in 1609, sailing up the river that now bears his name, of pilgrims embarking at Delfshaven bound for America after living 12 years in Holland, of the Dutch West India Company buying Manhattan Island and laying the foundation for a magnificent city of commerce, and of sturdy Dutch pioneers breaking ground for new farms in our Midwest.

I thought that I would surprise Her Majesty by telling her that each year there's a tulip festival in Holland, Michigan. She's already booked to go there. [Laughter]

Your Majesty, three American Presidents were of Dutch ancestry. And I'll bet that doesn't surprise you, either. Martin Van Buren, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt. Their contributions are well known. But countless lesser-known men and women of Dutch ancestry composed the building stones of America. If we were successful in creating a free and prosperous society of which we're rightfully proud, we must be thankful for the part played by our kindred spirits from the Netherlands, people who believed in hard work and who valued freedom. That's the spirit that built America, a spirit that citizens of Dutch ancestry helped instill in the American character.

Rembrandt, one of your great artists, showed the world new uses of light to add depth and meaning to painting. Similarly the Dutch, with uncompromising devotion to liberty, have been a light and inspiration to Americans, even in the depth of their darkest hours.

In the early 1780's, your nation fought a war which was at least partially caused by the affinity between the Netherlands and the American colonists then fighting for independence.

Our friendship, cemented in time and blood, is not taken lightly here. On this 200th anniversary of our fraternity, let us again pledge that we will meet the future together—two nations dedicated to peace, faithful to the cause of human liberty, and confident that right will prevail.

And now, may I ask all of you to join me in a toast to our good friends, the people of the Netherlands, to Her Majesty the Queen, and to His Royal Highness.

The Queen. Mr. President, my husband and I would like to thank you most sincerely for your warm words of welcome. We greatly appreciated the cordial reception given to us by your country, which has highlighted the special nature of the ties of friendship uniting our two nations.

There are few countries whose relations down the centuries have been so genuinely cordial and mutually beneficial as those between your great country, Mr. President, and my own.

It is surprising how many similarities one encounters in the stories of the birth of our two nations. The theory that a people could liberate themselves from their sovereign if he abused his powers was clearly formulated when the Dutch rose in revolt against their king, the King of Spain, in the 16th century. This was the conviction which was echoed in your historic Declaration of Independence two centuries later.

In 1780 we allied ourselves with you in your fight for freedom, alongside France and Spain. We were the second country to officially recognize the United States of America—not entirely without self-interest, I'm afraid—Dutch bankers provided you with the financial aid so desperately needed— [laughter] —in the period of rehabilitation following the War of Independence.

During the 19th century, millions of people from a great many countries, including the Netherlands, felt oppressed in the Old World and set their hopes on the New. It was their hard work and resourcefulness, coupled with the efforts of the descendants of the early colonists, that soon made the United States one of the strongest powers of the world.

Your intervention in the First World War brought peace to Europe. When that terrible struggle was over, it was your President, Woodrow Wilson, who inspired countless Dutchmen with his ideals.

Even more vital was your intervention in the Second World War for both Europe and Asia. Although I was only a child growing up in Canada, I have vivid memories of the warm affection felt by my mother, Princess Juliana, and my grandmother, Queen Wilhelmina, for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. One of the last letters that President Roosevelt wrote early in 1945, 2 days before his death, was to my grandmother, assuring her that measures to help the Netherlands, then suffering from famine and oppression, were very much in his mind. "You can be very certain," he wrote, "that I shall never forget the country of my origin."

The memory of that great statesman with his sense of social justice is cherished and honored by innumerable Dutch people. Nor do they forget what they owe to his courageous successor, President Truman, and to President Eisenhower.

It was Eisenhower who, after leading the Allied Forces to victory, became the first Supreme Commander of that great alliance founded a generation ago, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This Alliance, relying principally on the strength of your country, Mr. President, has ensured the security of Europe and thus of the Netherlands.

It was also your country that helped us restore our shattered economy. I have in mind, of course, the Marshall plan, that brilliant example of American statesmanship-statesmanship, above all, because the plan did not seek to impose a pattern of its own but respected the values cherished in Europe, and because it was based on the understanding that helping others to help themselves is in the long run the most effective form of aid, thereby serving best the purposes of both donor and recipient.

We in the Netherlands undoubtedly owe a great deal to the United States. The spirit of enterprise, of daring, of constant innovation is a feature of American life that has always been an inspiration to others.

The winds of change, for example, that swept across Europe in the late sixties also originated in your country. Dutch society has been profoundly affected by artistic influences from America. Constantly improving means of communication have contributed to the advancement of science, trade, and culture on both sides of the Atlantic. All this has brought us closer together than ever before.

In sketching the associations between the United States and the Netherlands over more than 200 years, I intended not only to look back, Mr. President, but also to look forward.

It is the events of the past that have brought us to this point. We face an uncertain future together. Let us set our sights on the ideal of a just and humane society for all mankind. We cannot achieve this without standing up for freedom and respect for human rights. These ideals should constitute the theme underlying our mutual cooperation.

I need hardly add, however, that it is only natural, in view of our long and eventful histories, that our two nations should play the theme in different variations. While recognizing that the stress should be on unity, especially in times of adversity, I regard pluraformity, also within our North Atlantic partnership, as natural and meaningful.

The partnership would not benefit from uncritical, mutual admiration. Assuming that the dialog between the countries is inspired by honest motives and based on mutual trust, we must continue to listen to one another.

The Netherlands will endeavor to make a contribution by being open-minded and undogmatic. Tolerance has always been a feature of our national character. May I, therefore, express the hope that tolerance, openness, and patience will continue to mark our international partnership.

Whatever our differences, there is infinitely more that binds our peoples together. We have become partners of our own free will. Above all, let us not underestimate the strength that can emanate from a union that succeeds in safeguarding both external and internal freedom.

In view of this, I'm confident that relations between your country, Mr. President, and my own will be even closer in the future than they have been in the last 200 years.

May I ask you all to raise your glasses and drink to the health and happiness of the President of the United States of America and Mrs. Reagan, to the good fortune and prosperity of the American people, and to our good relations and centuries-long friendship.

Note: The President spoke at 9:35 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts of the President and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands at the State Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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