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Toasts at the State Dinner for Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany

October 21, 1986

The President. Well now, normally I would just start saying thank you, and one of the nicer parts of the job I've got is getting to know the leaders of other countries. But I know that the leader of the other country will forgive me for a little American thing that has to be said right now: At the top of the 4th, the New York Mets are 4, the Boston Red Sox, 1 [The President referred to the third game of the World Series].

But tonight we honor one of those foreign leaders who's been a joy to know; a man who has achieved great power and influence, yet has remained unpretentious and who, as Nancy would say, is just simply charming. Chancellor Kohl, as was reconfirmed in our meetings today, is a responsible leader who takes his work seriously; a man with confidence, because what he does is out of honest conviction.

A German philosopher, Heinrich Heine, once said, "The worst poison is to despair of one's own power." Well, despair is not in Chancellor Kohl's vocabulary. He sets his goals and goes about achieving them with great gusto. Chancellor Kohl is a realist, yet he has not lost touch with his ideals. Carl Schurz, born a German, an adopted American, a champion of human freedom, once wrote: "Ideals are like the stars; we never reach them. But like the mariners of the sea, we chart our course by them." Chancellor Kohl charts his course guided by the ideals of liberty and justice. This is the source of his sense of purpose, the source from which democracy draws its strength, a power beyond the reach of tyrants.

Today the Western democracies face challenges that, at times, seem overwhelming. Yet we persevere, and in the end, freedom will triumph. Our victory will not be realized in the crossing of borders by well-equipped armies, certainly not in the launching of missiles or the occupation of other countries. Our victory will come, perhaps little by little, as walls are torn down, missiles dismantled, and as people are freed. Free peoples everywhere share this vision. The friendship and comradery of Chancellor Kohl's visit is testimony that the world we seek is already being built.

In a few short years, the world will not only enter a new century but also a new millennium. And so I would ask you all to join me now in a toast to friends, close partners who are working with us to ensure that the time ahead will be an age of peace, prosperity, and freedom: To Chancellor Kohl and Mrs. Kohl and the German people.

The Chancellor. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it's a source of particular pleasure for my wife, my colleagues, and my delegation to be your guests here tonight. With warmth and elegance you, Mrs. Reagan, have extended to us such magnificent hospitality. And as always, we appreciate the cordiality of your welcome and the very friendly and intimate atmosphere that prevails here. And all those who have preserved for themselves a sense of history will certainly enjoy these hours here in this house.

Well, my last appointment before coming to this hospitable occasion here in the White House was meeting with Youth for Understanding. And there I met with young Germans who have come here to this country to spend 1 year in American families, and with young Americans who have just returned from Germany. And I feel, Mr. President, that both these occasions, my visit with Youth for Understanding and this dinner here tonight, go together and belong together.

This day, with the serious and important conversations we had when we tried to take stock after the Reykjavik conference, that what we are doing and what we are discussing is serving the purpose only for coming generations. And it is true in 14 years from now we arrive in the year 2000. This is a new century and will be a new millennium. And that is the reason why what we are doing now, what we start to set in motion, is so important for the young generation. And I consider it to be important to make a remark of that kind in this very house which has seen so many historic events and, over the last 100 years, also world historic events. And it is important for my fellow countrymen, Mr. President, in Germany-in both parts of Germany—it is important for them to know that we have friends here in this country—we, as Germans. And they should know that we in Germany can rely on those friends. This is a solid friendship, and this friendship is based on shared ideals and values. And I think this is more important and matters more than anything else. Because material conditions may change, but when we continue to share the same values, then we will also have a common future.

And I would like to thank you once again, as I have done already today, for having seized this opportunity in Reykjavik. And both of us are without any illusion. We know with whom we are talking. But we know that these talks are necessary and that, in reality, there is no alternative to these talks and that the time has now come to get over this watershed, as [Secretary of State] George Shultz has put it—there, where you can take the responsibility for it, with a sense of realism, but also with a sense of courage. And I'm saying this as a German, a German who lives, more than a national of another country, in the shadow of the dividing line between East and West. And I'm making these remarks as somebody who knows that peace and freedom cannot be had for nothing and as somebody who is asking for greater sacrifices from the young generation of his own country than perhaps in other countries. We have just extended the term of the draft. But we have done it because we are aware of the fact that freedom and peace are inseparably linked up with one another.

Mr. President, we had good talks. And I think I may say, with your permission, what characterizes and what is best in our talks is that we don't make so many words to make ourselves understood to each other. World statisticians who are looking into a good many things claim that in 1953, when Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, paid his first visit to the United States of America, had spoken during various addresses and statements a total of 288,000 words. At that time, we didn't have computers yet- [laughter] —and I think nobody checked on that figure. But it sounds well. We required fewer words today, because it was not necessary to us to make ourselves understood. And this, Mr. President, I think is a good omen, and I hope things will stay like this. You may rely on your friends in Germany as we—and I myself, personally—have gone through the experience that we may rely and count on you.

I should now like to propose a toast: To your good health, Mr. President; to your good health, Mrs. Reagan; and to a prosperous future of the great American Nation, the great Americans, our friends.

Note: The President spoke at 9:50 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. Chancellor Kohl spoke in German, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts at the State Dinner for Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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