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Toasts at the State Dinner for General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union

December 08, 1987

The President. Mr. General Secretary and Mrs. Gorbachev, Foreign Minister Shevardnadze, honored guests: In our public statements and in our meetings together, Mr. General Secretary, we've always paid each other the compliment of candor. So, let us continue to do so. By now, Mr. General Secretary, you may have concluded that while we have fundamental disagreements about how human communities should govern themselves, it's possible, all the same, for us to work together.

As we complete the first full day of this historic meeting, let us look back together at the developments of the past 2 years and the significance of what is taking place. For we find ourselves involved in a dramatic march of events that has captured the attention of our two peoples and the entire world. Since you and I first met in Geneva in November 1985, Mr. General Secretary, our two countries have moved toward a new period in the history of our relations. The highlight of your visit is the signing of the first U.S.-Soviet arms control agreement in nearly a decade—the first ever to mandate actual reductions in our arsenals of nuclear weapons. We're making significant progress in other important areas of arms reduction, and have the opportunity, with mutual commitment and hard work, to achieve much more in the coming months.

But our relationship—the United States and the Soviet Union—is not founded just on arms control but reaches across a broad spectrum of issues. A relationship that addresses the basic problems of self-determination in the areas of regional conflicts and human rights. There are differences here, but ones that require frankness and candor. In bilateral matters, we also need hard and honest debate.

A century-and-a-half ago, the brilliant French observer, de Tocqueville, foresaw that our two countries would be the major countries of the world. History, geography, the blessings of resources, and the hard work of our peoples have made it so. And between us, there has also been a profound competition of political and economic philosophy, making us the protagonists in a drama with the greatest importance for the future of all mankind. Man's most fundamental beliefs about the relationship of the citizen to the state and of man to his creator lie at the core of the competition between our two countries. History has indeed endowed our relationship with a profound meaning.

Certainly we will not settle those issues this week. But the tasks before us require a full awareness of those issues and of a responsibility that is binding on us both. I speak of a responsibility we dare not compromise or shirk. I speak of the responsibility to settle our differences in peace. Already, by virtue of hard work and hard bargaining, we've accomplished much, and our negotiators deserve great credit. But we cannot afford to rest. There is more work to be done, and time and history are marching on.

So, I offer a toast, a commitment on behalf of the American people of seriousness, goodwill, and hope for the future. General Secretary and Mrs. Gorbachev: To your health. Za vashe zdorovye.

The General Secretary. I take power into my hands now, while the President is busy. [Laughter] Esteemed Mr. President, esteemed Mrs. Reagan, ladies and gentlemen, comrades: Last summer it took a daring American girl by the name of Lynn Cox a mere 2 hours to swim the distance separating our two countries. On television we saw how sincere and cordial the meeting was between our people and the Americans when she stepped onto the Soviet shore. By her courage she showed how close to each other our two peoples live.

Without minimizing the great political and ideological distances between us, we want to seek and find avenues of rapprochement in areas where this is of vital importance for our two countries and for all humankind. That is precisely what we are here for. In my 1986 New Year's Eve address on American television, I spoke of our hopes for a better future. By that time, Mr. President, you and I had already had g days of face-to-face talks in Geneva. This enabled me to tell Americans in my New Year address that the winter of our discontent may one day come to an end. Today, following Reykjavik and the extensive preparatory work that has made our meeting in Washington possible, it can be said that the winter is on the wane.

A boundless world stretches far and wide beyond the walls of this house. And you and I, if you will, are accountable to it and to the peoples of our two countries, to our allies and friends and to all our contemporaries. The Russian word, perestroika, can be applied to the process now underway all over the world of rethinking the realities of a nuclear and space age. It must now be clear to all that the problems of today's world will not be solved through old approaches. The goal we are setting today is to build a nuclear-free world. The road leading to it is difficult and thorny, but with new thinking it is attainable. As you can see, here, too, changes are necessary-changes in the minds and changes in actions.

The great age of geographical discoveries amounted to more than one caravel or one newly found continent. Our journey toward a nuclear-free world cannot amount to reaching one or two islands named INF and shorter range INF. It is my hope that we shall promptly move further ahead toward the goal of reducing and then eliminating strategic offensive arms which make up the main and decisive portion of the nuclear arsenal.

As the clock of life brings us closer and closer to the gist century, we are duty bound to remember that each one of us, within the limits of our capability and ability, personifies the link between the transient and the eternal. As our famous poet Afanasiy Fet, said, "Although man is not eternal, what is human is eternal." It is in the name of eternal humanity that we have today performed our momentous deed.

And my first salute is to that event. It will be cherished by our two peoples. So, I address these words of congratulation to the Soviet and American people whose will is embodied in the agreement. I want to emphasize that this is the fruit of the efforts not only of us both but also of our allies and representatives of all countries and all public movements whose effort and contribution rightfully make them parties to this historic event.

It would be fair today to pay tribute to the efforts of those who were directly involved in preparing the treaty. May I wish good health to you, Mr. President, and to Mrs. Reagan; happiness and well-being to all those present here tonight; peace and prosperity to the peoples of our two countries.

Note: The President spoke at 9:34 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. The President spoke in English, and the General Secretary spoke in Russian. Their remarks were translated by interpreters.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts at the State Dinner for General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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