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Toasts at the State Dinner for Prime Minister Jacques Chirac of France

March 31, 1987

The President. Mr. Prime Minister, Madame Chirac, Mr. Foreign Minister, and honored guests, and ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the White House. And if this had been 24 hours earlier, I was going to say, "And, if I may, welcome to this splendid spring evening." [Laughter] Well, we've spoken today of the challenges that confront our two great nations. This evening, Nancy and I'd like to invite you to relax. Mr. Prime Minister, Madame Chirac, you'll always be welcomed friends in this house. And by the way, I hope you all enjoyed this evening's dinner wine. You see, it was produced in California— [laughter] —as part of a joint French-American venture. [Laughter]

But no one can live in this house for long without feeling the vibrant spirit of our French and American forebears, of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, of Lafayette and Rochambeau. And I just have to believe they'd be proud to know that the common commitment to freedom that served as the foundation of our friendship so long ago remains alive in the White House tonight. But even as we look to the legendary figures of the past, we look as well to the major French and American figures of the present. And certainly, there are many here tonight, many who personify the bonds between us in diplomacy, in culture and commerce, in entertainment and science. Just recently we reached an important agreement regarding AIDS research, an agreement recognizing that French and American scientists stand together in the forefront of the battle against this tragic disease.

To everyone, all of our eminent guests, welcome. This evening, too, Nancy and I cannot help but recall our own travels to France during these last 6 years. I remember especially meeting with my summit colleagues in the halls and gardens of the Palace of Versailles, that place of immense beauty so alive with the history of France. And we remember standing on the beaches of Normandy, with the Channel waters behind and the cliffs above, thinking of the men who fought and died on that terrible day nearly 43 years ago when the fate of the free world hung in the balance, of the men who fought and died for freedom.

As is only befitting with close friends, Mr. Prime Minister, our discussions were frank and constructive. We covered East-West issues, arms control, the struggle against terrorism, regional conflicts—a broad agenda. We discussed our differences on trade issues, and how to narrow those differences in ways that would advance the economic well-being of our peoples. I know that you continued those discussions through the day with Secretary Shultz, Secretary Weinberger, and Secretary Baker, and that tomorrow you will meet with Vice President Bush.

As always, our discussions were able to take almost for granted certain shared values. Yet these values—liberty, democracy, the dignity of each individual—these values are sacred. And nowhere are they more important or more in evidence today than in the strength of the Atlantic alliance and in the unshakable commitment of the United States to share in the defense of Europe. So it is that, even as we seek to negotiate arms control and other agreements with the Soviet Union, we'll continue to consult closely with our European allies. Our message is clear to friend and foe alike: America stands with Europe.

And permit me now to invite you all to join me in raising a glass in friendship: To France and to our honored guests, Prime Minister Chirac and Madame Chirac.

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, my wife and I are extremely touched by the warmth of your welcome, as we are by this beautiful reception, which marks the end of a day we have just spent under the sign of friendship in this city of Washington. I wish to extend special thanks for this warm reception which brings together in this famous and beautiful house men and women of America and France from the worlds of the arts, of science, and of politics. And these thanks go to you, Mrs. Reagan, especially, because I know the personal part you have played in preparing this reception. And let me say how much we appreciate the elegance, the warmth, and the friendship of it all.

And let me tell you also, Mr. President, how happy we are to be with you here tonight, with a man who has managed to reconcile America with itself, to restore its self-confidence, and to give it the chance to hope anew—in other words, to restore the vigor of the American dream. And you know what high regard, friendship, and yes, indeed, affection Europeans and the people of France, in particular, have for you, sir.

When I arrived here this morning, what I said came from the heart. France is more than an ally; France is a faithful friend. America is sometimes convinced that she is insufficiently loved and does not always, however, set sufficient store by the intensity of France's feelings for America. These feelings are not only the result of the trials we have always borne side by side. They are not solely due to the fact that we share the same values: liberty. Today these ties are stronger than ever before because we naturally ask ourselves the same questions, because we have to meet the same challenges, and because we share a common will precisely to do so.

I'm rediscovering the same self-questioning spirit, the same will to go forward, to face the future with open eyes, to make hope triumph over doubt which I first experienced 30 years ago when I visited your country as a student. But I also want to emphasize how much France, in the alliance of Western democracies, is indeed a strong European partner that the United States can rely upon. And this strength is due to the deep commitment of the whole of the people of my country to the principles that govern our foreign policy and our national security. These principles are those which General de Gaulle defined 30 years ago, and all of the Governments of France since then, without fail, have abided by them.

In no other European country is there such a large consensus on the main lines of foreign policy: respect for existing alliances, national independence, and being present in world affairs. In Europe, France is working both for the development of unity and respect, at the same time for diversity. In Africa, she's fighting attempts of destabilization. In Latin America, defending democracy against dictatorship. In the Middle East, she wishes to engage in dialog with all parties concerned, so as better to explore the paths of peace. In the Pacific, she wishes to enhance the region's harmony and stability. And finally, France fervently hopes that the rich countries of the world through greater generosity will be able to prevent a larger number of countries from sinking even deeper into debt and experiencing even worse poverty. And France intends to work steadfastly towards the attainment of this goal.

In no other European country is there such a consensus in favor of development and modernization of defense capabilities, and more particularly, in favor of a nuclear deterrent that guarantees respect for national independence and liberty in all circumstances. And finally, one cannot forget the French people's unanimous agreement not to give in to terrorist blackmail and remain in adversity, one and determined.

But, Mr. President, the message which I bear today is also that of a new France which has learned the lessons of economic crisis and has decided to turn its back on outdated remedies and patterns and to undertake deep change, modifying century old habits in order better to meet the requirements of tomorrow. Over the last thousand years, monarchy has shaped France's identity, and the price of this was a necessary process of centralization, which under the revolution and the Napoleonic empire were indeed consolidated. And as you were mentioning yourself, Mr. President, to me, Alexis de Tocqueville quite aptly remarked: In a country where for centuries at end everything was handed down by the top of the power structure, things had to change.

And indeed, an actual revolution is today underway in which hitherto nationalized companies are being handed back to the private sector, in which the audiovisual media still under state control are being given over to private initiative, in which regulations that long stifled the economy's efficiency are being eliminated, in which an increasing number of responsibilities are being transferred to local authorities.

Now, a year ago Francois Mitterrand, President of the French Republic, appointed me Prime Minister. The people of France have entrusted to my government the mission to release the energies of our country and to give free rein to its creativity and can-do spirit, which have traditionally found an outlet in the arts, in which most today show their mettle in economy, business, and industry. Loyal, strong, open to the world around it, Mr. President, such is the France that is visiting you today.

I wish to raise my glass in honor of Mr. Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America; Mrs. Nancy Reagan, to whom I present my most respectful regards; to the future of friendship and cooperation between France and the United States. Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mrs. Reagan.

Note: The President spoke at 9:56 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, Secretary of the Treasury James A. Baker III, and Vice President George Bush. Prime Minister Chirac spoke in French, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts at the State Dinner for Prime Minister Jacques Chirac of France Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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