Toasts at the State Dinner for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada
The President. Nancy and I are delighted to again host an evening that brings Americans and Canadians together. No gathering could be more enjoyable and nothing is less unusual. Canadians and Americans congregate the world over on the least provocation. An inviting border has made us close and easygoing neighbors.
The essence and the strength of the relations between our two countries are people. Our people naturally get along well together. We share our triumphs and victories as we share our adversities. And when at times we spar, we do so without rancor, and we work out our differences. May this very special and productive spirit of cooperation remain in place. As John Diefenbaker so ably put it, "Our peoples are North Americans; we are the products of the same hope, faith, and dreams."
Well, your visit comes as we're on the threshold of a major event, important and historic to you and me and the nations we lead. I speak of our recently signed free trade agreement. Years ago British Admiral Beatty voiced the sense of our trade agreement when he explained what defends our common border: "nothing but the sound common sense and sound good will of two practical nations." Well, our new agreement makes much common sense and sets the stage for much good will. We shall avoid the perils of protectionism and gain the advantages of each country producing what each is best able to bring to market. Generations of Canadians and Americans will know you as the farsighted leader who proposed the free trade agreement. It will prove to be as big and as important as the magnitude of our bilateral trade. It signals to our trading partners that we are sincere in our belief that lowering tariffs and trade barriers is clearly the only answer to the distortions growing in world trade.
Your visit has allowed us to address issues other than trade. We share common concerns regarding the many aspects of the environment. Progress is being made. There is yet much we can do to make our shared continent a more comfortable and healthy place on which to live.
We've had important discussions of questions of peace and security. Canada's role is critical for the security of the Atlantic community. Canada's contribution to NATO is to be increased, which all your allies welcome. And I have seen at firsthand, Brian, the constructive contribution you've made personally in alliance deliberations like the NATO summit in March.
This is our fourth and my final summit. They started high on the ramparts of Quebec, and we've never lowered our lofty goals and objectives. I regret, however, that I could never reach those same high notes that the Prime Minister's voice so easily reached in song. [Laughter] These have been enjoyable meetings, useful meetings, and they've created bonds between us that have been seen as refreshing—as they have been hopeful to the execution of my office. In the process you've won my respect for your wise counsel and admiration for your leadership.
Mr. Prime Minister, you can look back on the years of our summits as a period in which you successfully achieved the goals you set out before you took office. You've achieved an important constitutional breakthrough. You have seen the Canadian economy grow and unemployment fall during your tenure in office. You have achieved a special place in history with our free trade agreement. Above all, you've been a strong and persistent advocate for Canada, liberally applying your adage that "we can disagree without being disagreeable." You have taught all of us about Canada's point of view on issues important to Canada while at the same time being a good neighbor and a firm friend. There can be little doubt that relations between the United States and Canada have prospered these last 4 years, and I thank you for both the effort and the success.
And now, excuse me just one second. To the Queen of Canada, to my good friend and good neighbor, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and Mrs. Mulroney, and to the enduring bond between our two North American peoples.
The Prime Minister. Mr. President and Mrs. Reagan, and chers amis [dear friends], I rise to propose a toast to the President of the United States and the First Lady. I rise also in a personal sense on behalf of Mila and myself to toast our friendship with Ronald and Nancy Reagan. For just as this is a glittering occasion of state, it is also a special one for us. This visit marks the last time we will be under this roof at a state dinner as guests of the Reagans. This is not to say, Ron, that I have no expectation of being here again— [laughter] —subject to the approval of the voters in Canada this year or next. And we'll be seeing the Reagans again at the economic summit in Toronto in June. But this is the last of our home-and-home visits, which began in Quebec City in 1985. I believe these annual meetings begun by our two administrations have now become part of the institutional framework of Canada-U.S. relations.
I suppose that too much can be made of special relationships between countries, and too much can probably be made of personal relationships between leaders. I don't think that's the case between these two countries or these two leaders. But the fact is that Canada and the United States are one another's best friends and largest trading partners. It's also a fact that Ronald Reagan and I happened to hit it off at the beginning and have got along ever since. This is not to say that either one of us has ever lost sight of the national interest of his own country, but it has helped us define the mutual interest of both our countries. And often, as we did on one or two issues today, we will disagree while continuing to search for common ground.
Those of us who hold elective office are called politicians. There's no dishonor in that. But I have seen Ronald Reagan, the statesman. I want briefly to speak to that tonight from the perspective of a friend in the eighth year of his Presidency. We're looking tonight at a period in American and world history that will in large measure, when the day is done, be known as the Reagan era. For the first time in almost 30 years an American President is completing two full terms of office.
The Reagan years have been a time of peace and prosperity. There have been moments of great difficulty and regional crisis, but the peace has been preserved. When Ronald Reagan came to this house as President, he was accused of saber rattling. In the event while strengthening Western security, he paved the way for historic arms reductions in the INF agreement and opened the door to strategic arms reductions. This is the legacy of a man of peace.
The forthcoming Moscow summit is a significant opportunity for the further reduction of East-West tensions. And the President goes with the hopes and prayers of all his allies for another successful meeting with General Secretary Gorbachev; for, as the President himself has said, a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.
When Ronald Reagan came to this house, the world was on the brink of the deepest recession in half a century. As he prepares to leave it next January, the United States and Western economies are in their 6th consecutive year of unprecedented recovery and expansion. When he leaves office, his popularity will be undiminished and his place in history secure.
I want to just say, parenthetically, something that happened to me in August of 1987. It was a Sunday, and I was reading the New York Sunday Times. And I was struck by this headline. And here's, I think, a direct quote, though I'm speaking from memory. The quote is, "Reagan's Popularity Plummets To 59 Percent." [Laughter] You see, right there, one sees the fundamental difference between Canada and the United States. [Laughter] It's language. [Laughter] "Plummet" clearly does not mean the same thing in Canada— [laughter] —as the United States. Now, what I did that day after I finished reading the Times was, I called the President up. He was at Camp David, and I said, "Did you read the Times?" He said, "Yes, I did." And he didn't sound so enthusiastic. [Laughter] I said, "I don't know how to break this to you, but on a good day, Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, and I together would be happy with 59 percent." [Laughter] Look, I'll settle for 39 percent. [Laughter]
Every leader of a democracy knows the turbulence and the challenges that free societies exemplify. Every leader worth his salt knows the joys of high accomplishment and the sadness of hopes unfulfilled. But history is usually generous to those who show leadership, who brought prosperity, who strengthened freedom, and who kept the global peace. Ronald Reagan has done these things, while never losing his engaging manner and his warm, good humor.
When you look around this house, you get a sense not only of history but of serenity and continuity and of how much Nancy Reagan has contributed to that. She has brought her own brand of commitment and elegance to the White House. She has brought as well her own sense of public purpose to addressing the tragedy of drug abuse not only in your country but throughout the Western Hemisphere. As a Prime Minister and a head of government, I know something of the pressures and tensions on relationships and families that come with these jobs. And of all the world capitals, nowhere is the curiosity greater and the pressure higher than here in Washington. In this unique and demanding climate, Nancy Reagan has been more than a model of grace; she has demonstrated exemplary qualities of loyalty and resolve, which I believe are to her great credit.
On an occasion such as this, one speaks briefly of the achievements, the agenda between our countries, and I'll be very brief. The agenda is comprehensive, the issues are complex, and the solutions are, as President Kennedy once said in regard to Canada-U.S. relations, "neither easy nor automatic." As for the achievements, there is still work for you, Mr. President, to get the free trade agreement ratified by Congress. This is a tremendous accomplishment—the largest trade agreement ever negotiated between two sovereign countries—and it opens up a world of new possibilities and prosperity for both our peoples on both sides of the border. And one of the reasons we made that agreement is that President Reagan believed in the initiative from the beginning and stayed with it to the end.
Engraved on the mantlepiece of this room, there is a quotation, I believe, from the first occupant of this house. I quote it because it applies to the present occupant of this house: "May none but honest and wise men," President John Adams wrote, "ever rule under this roof." Ronald Reagan has been both honest and wise, and for us and for Canada he has been a good and a valued friend.
Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to rise as I propose a toast to the President of the United States and Mrs. Reagan: To the President and Mrs. Reagan.
Note: The President spoke at 9:57 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.
Ronald Reagan, Toasts at the State Dinner for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/254555