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Toasts of the President, President Kristjan Eldjarn of Iceland, and President Georges Pompidou of France at a Dinner in Reykjavik

May 31, 1973

Mr. President and Mrs. Eldjarn, President Pompidou, Mr. Prime Minister,1 and all of our distinguished guests:

This is a very historic moment for me, both personally and in my official capacity, because I am the first American President ever to visit this country.

I want to thank you, Mr. President, and your wife for the gracious hospitality that you have extended to us on this occasion and also for all of our visit.

I would remind you that it was several years ago in 1956 that as Vice President, along with Mr. Rogers, we visited your country. It was in the dead of winter at Christmastime. The snow was 12 feet high. It was the coldest winter, I think, in history. And now we are here on one of the most glorious days at the beginning of summer.

But whatever the differences in the weather, whether it be in the cold of winter or in the beautiful warmth of summer, there is one thing that does not change, and that is the warmth of an Icelandic welcome. We thank you for that. We have seen it on every occasion, and we have seen it tonight.

As we come to your capital, we are aware, of course, of the proud tradition of this country and of its modern significance as well. We realize that this house in which we have dinner tonight is older than the White House, which for America is a very old house.

We also know that you are a member of our Atlantic community, and in a sense, you are in the center of it. That is why it was a very appropriate place for President Pompidou and me to meet. Each of us came halfway, but I should point out to President Pompidou, I came a little more than halfway, because his trip was only 4 hours and mine was 5 1/2. Now, whether I came more than halfway in our discussions will remain to be seen.

Also, I would like to say on this occasion that I have appreciated the opportunity to again have very serious and constructive talks with President Pompidou. In these meetings, and in others we have had, we have carried on a continuing and comprehensive European-American dialog.

Now, that dialog is designed to strengthen our relationship, to reinvigorate it.

France, as everybody knows, is America's oldest ally, and it is an ally with whom we have stood side-by-side on many occasions. Lafayette, in the very, early days of our country, once told George Washington that Franco-American friendship would live forever. But we know that even the oldest and staunchest alliance, even the oldest and staunchest friendship must constantly be renewed if it is to be of the greatest possible effectiveness in our changing world.

President Pompidou put it very well when he said that we believe we can achieve genuine European-American unity only while respecting the individual personality of each sovereign nation. That is my philosophy as well.

Within our unity there can be individuality, and if there is not individuality, that unity will mean nothing in the world in which we presently live, in which so many proud peoples play a part.

Looking at our present situation, as President Pompidou and I agreed today, it is our interests that unite us. We have so many things in common: our common political heritage, our common cultural tradition, our common concern for the security of the Atlantic community.

And so, what differences we have-which are inevitable even among friends-pale into insignificance as they are compared with those great interests which do unite us in this great community which we share.

I am confident that the conversations we have had on this occasion will result in an even closer appreciation of our common interests and of our common objectives and also a greater determination to see that those interests and those objectives are always foremost and that the tactics designed to meet them will be only supplemental to those interests.

It is in this spirit of European-American friendship--French, Icelandic, American friendship--that I offer a toast this evening, a toast which has never been offered before, because such a meeting as this never occurred before and may never occur again.

A toast to the President of Iceland, a toast to the Prime Minister of Iceland, and a toast to the President of France and to this great community which we are proud to share together.

1 Olafur Johannesson was Prime Minister of Iceland.

Note: The President spoke at 10:41 p.m. in Bessastadir, the residence of the President of Iceland, in Reykjavik, in response to toasts proposed by President Eldjarn and President Pompidou.

President Eldjarn spoke in Icelandic and President Pompidou spoke in French. Translations of their toasts follow:


It is a great pleasure for myself and my wife to bid you and your companions welcome to this house.

It is clear to the Icelandic people that your meeting in this country is worldwide news. It focuses world attention on our country in a special manner. This is to our liking, for we wish to make our country known among others, to broaden their knowledge of our nation, its struggle for survival and its social and cultural aims as well as our historical and natural rights to this country with all its resources. We believe that your stay in this country will contribute to the strengthening of an understanding of our situation and our endeavors.

In Iceland we attach much importance to the fact that a democratic way of thinking is rooted with us and based on an ancient foundation, even reaching back to the age of the settlement when our ancestors discovered and inhabited this country which had remained unknown and uninhabited. We are agreed in wishing to strengthen equality and justice among the people in our society. You, our distinguished guests, are leaders of two large and powerful nations which have contributed in a historic manner to paving the way for modern conception of freedom and the rights of man. The Icelandic nation, like others, has thanks to tender for this cultural influence. I would recall this on the present occasion and also the fact that our nation has at ]east since last century been in considerable direct contact with your nations and derived a fertile influence from them in many fields, among others in the arts and literature. During the past decades we have had extensive relations in the international arena which leave us with memories of lasting values which will be recalled in future. I would make an expression of my respect for your great nations.

It is necessary for every nation to follow the development of international affairs as closely as possible. We in Iceland are fully desirous of doing so. Your meeting and discussions here in our midst will add further strength to this our will. I would like to express the sincere wish that our country may offer you desirable facilities for your discussions, that your stay and that of your companions will give you pleasure, and that you will leave us with good memories of this your visit to Iceland. [ would echo the wish of all people of good will to the effect that your meeting in Iceland may result in blessings for the world which we all jointly inhabit.

I drink your toast, Messrs. Presidents, wishing happiness and welfare to yourselves and your nations.


I am moved indeed by the kind words you have spoken and by the welcome we have received in Reykjavik. We already knew how much your people has always married a deep sense of hospitality with its virtues of character and drive. We witness it again today.

Together with my gratitude, I would like to express the pleasure and honor I feel in being here, the first French head of state to come to Iceland. One could hardly find a better example of sincere friendship and cloudless relationship as they exist between our two countries. They originated in a remote past, as you know well, Mr. President, being an archeologist and historian. Since the very start, they have been placed under the aegis of cultural relations, and so they remain today. Is it not symbolic, in this connection, that Halldor Laxness, your Nobel Prize winner, whose works are very popular in France, is also the author of a remarkable adaptation of Candide? I could not claim to be complete, but I shall recall that in the 19th century our relations were enriched by very close contacts between ports of Iceland and Brittany. As you know, Pierre Loti found there the subject of one of his best books. One could not fail also to recall the memory of Commandant Charcot and the part he took in the discovery of Arctic regions.

Nowadays our exchanges are diversifying. In the economic, scientific, and technological fields they develop in a way which, for my part, I sincerely hope will be continued.

Our foreign policy options also bring us together. In the last war, Iceland unfortunately lost hundreds of her best sailors. We were allies in the past, and we still are within the Atlantic Alliance. In trade, Iceland and the European Community have signed an agreement, and I hope that the conditions will soon be fulfilled for its complete implementation. Furthermore, we sit side by side in the Council of Europe, in OECD, the United Nations, and for several months now at the Helsinki preparatory multilateral discussions on the European Conference on Security and Cooperation. In these several forums, thanks to a thousand years practice of democracy on their own soil and to the determination of their stand, Iceland representatives offer a constant example of the part a country can play in the world, whatever its size or power, a country concerned both with asserting its own personality and being opened to the largest cooperation.

Such manifold participation of Iceland in international life stems from a very old tradition. Around the year 1000, Leif the Happy, son of Eric the Red, was the first European to reach the New World, in North Newfoundland. About the same period, Saemundur Sigfusson, one of the most famous scholars in the Sagas era, was in Paris. Mr. President of the United States, we have both made conversely Leif's and Saemundur's journeys in order to meet in Reykjavik. I dare say it is of excellent augury for successful talks.

The ocean wind blowing on our meetings at the Azores a year and a half ago and now in Iceland is perhaps but the breeze of friendship uniting our two countries for quite some time now Born on the battlefields of the War of Independence, consecrated in two World Wars by the brotherhood of arms, felicitously strengthened in the numerous activities of peace, this friendship is today as fruitful and necessary as ever.

Doubtless, there are several and swift changes on the face of the world. Many of them, among the most decisive ones, are due to your initiative, Mr. President.

As world relations alter, Europe gradually and patiently discovers the road towards unity, a unity which is necessary but not thereby easier to achieve. There, again, there is marked progress.

Would it mean that relations between the U.S. and Europe, and more specifically the U.S. and France, have lost some of their urgency or interest? Certainly not. We know the place of Europe in your concern. For our part, however favorable may developments be in the world situation, we believe that it is still too fraught with uncertainties for the need for our alliance to decline.

Happily enough, my dear sirs and Presidents, wide is the pattern of all kinds of links to be established between free and active peoples. It comes as no surprise that the ever-changing needs in the international situation should often raise new problems. It is life itself which puts forth new challenges. It is up to us to stand up to them by overcoming them, that is, by placing them in the perspective of our future.

Such is, fellow Presidents, my strongest wish. It is therefore with confidence and friendship that I drink this toast in honor of His Excellency, Mr. Kristjan Eldjarn, President of the Republic of Iceland, in honor of His Excellency, Mr. Richard Nixon, President of the United States, and to the prosperity of our three countries.

On the same day, the White House released an advance text of the President's remarks. On May 29 and 31, 1973, the White House released transcripts of news briefings on the President's meetings with President Pompidou, and other matters of foreign policy by Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. The news briefing of May 31, released in Reykjavik, is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 9, P. 719).

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President, President Kristjan Eldjarn of Iceland, and President Georges Pompidou of France at a Dinner in Reykjavik Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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