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Toasts at the State Dinner for President Lech Walesa of Poland

March 20, 1991

President Bush. Mr. President and Mrs. Walesa, 2 years ago Barbara and I had the privilege of dining at your home in Gdansk. And today we are simply delighted to have you and other members of the Polish delegation at the White House.

It's been said that the character of a people is embodied in its leaders. And that is certainly true of tonight's honored guest. Eight years ago you were unable to visit Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. Tonight, America salutes you as an apostle of peace throughout the world.

Some leaders reflect their time. Mr. President, you have defined your time. You have been resolute in defeat and magnanimous in victory. You have fought to preserve liberty for all: for individuals, choice; for societies, pluralism; for nations, self-determination. To a crisis of the spirit, you supplied an answer of the spirit -- an answer forged upon trust in God and man.

Over the centuries Poland suffered through a winter of adversity. But you and your countrymen have delivered Poland into a springtime of thrilling possibility. You've brought us all to the verge of a new and freer world. And you helped a nation and a planet, if you will, summon lightness against the dark.

You've delivered the message of freedom everywhere. Go to Gdansk or Warsaw -- they know that by rediscovering its past, Poland is uplifting the future. Mr. President, under you, sir, Poles have learned anew that the individual, not the state, is the voice of tomorrow. You've used that voice to unlock minds and boundaries, enlarging Poland's horizons and helping build a new Europe, whole and free. For that, I thank you on behalf of every American.

Let me close with a story that shows the spiritual ties that bind our lands. It happened in 1776, when America was at a turning point in its history. A great Polish patriot fought with the Colonies, then returned to Poland with a simple three-word message. Today, 200 years later, you have returned General Kosciusko's message to the country of its birth: liberty, security, property. These words inspired the Joint Declaration of Principles that we signed today.

And so, now may I invite all our guests to raise our glasses to Polish-American friendship; to the health of our dear, admired friend; and to the liberty we can and must achieve for all the children of the world. Mr. President, sto lat. May you live 100 years. God bless you.

President Walesa. Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I'm convinced that I shall be at a loss for words to express my gratitude. It is for the second time that I'm present in the White House. It is, to me, a reason for honor, and it is moving.

It is also proof of the friendship that links the American nation with the Polish nation. This friendship was seen by the hundreds of thousands of Poles who, here, found their second motherland. They came from across the ocean because they were looking for freedom. America was freedom to them and remained a symbol of freedom.

Today, we and the country on the Vistula River also have freedom. Nobody, thank God, has to leave Poland. We have achieved new prospects through the reduction of the Polish debt. We are deeply grateful for the role which you, Mr. President, played in this magnificent act. It is a relief for millions of Poles. We shall remember this.

Two years ago, you were a guest in my home in Gdansk. Now, I am your guest in America. I am met here with undescribable sincerity. I hope that we shall meet on many more occasions. At the end, I would like to toast the most popular politician in Poland. [Laughter] Today it was passed on to the mass media -- this politician, President George Bush. [Laughter] I came up third in the poll. [Laughter]

So, to your health and that of your wife. To the health of all present here, all the magnificent American friends, your health.

Note: President Bush spoke at 8:15 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to President Walesa's wife, Danuta. President Walesa spoke in Polish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George Bush, Toasts at the State Dinner for President Lech Walesa of Poland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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