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Toasts at the State Dinner for Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore

October 08, 1985

The President. Prime Minister Lee and Mrs. Lee, honored guests who are here tonight, Nancy and I welcome you to the White House.

It was a great pleasure for me today to renew a valued friendship with Prime Minister Lee. I first met the Prime Minister on a trip that I took on behest of President Nixon. And when we stopped in Singapore, I was amazed at the dynamic society that I found there. How could a country with such a small area and few resources be making such strides? And then I met Prime Minister Lee, and my questions were answered. He is a man of principle and vision. His leadership has provided the vigorous and creative people of Singapore the means to move ahead, to achieve, and to build.

Singapore's experience has been in stark contrast to developing countries where political power has been derived from terror and brute force. Instead, Prime Minister Lee's authority has rested on his capacity to mold the opinion of his countrymen and build consensus. He has used his position to free the talents and energy of his people so they could be channeled into constructive, society-building activity. Fortunately, Prime Minister Lee's sound judgment does not stop at the water's edge. American leaders, including this one, have frequently benefited from his wise counsel. Our meetings today were no less beneficial. Our exchange was cordial, reflecting a mutuality of interests and a harmony of views.

Mr. Prime Minister, I want to express my personal admiration for your recognition of the contributions America makes to world peace. As the world's most powerful democracy, our people carry a heavy military and diplomatic burden and often thankless task. But you have demonstrated an appreciation and understanding that makes it all worthwhile. This spirit of mutual respect was evidenced in our meetings today. None of this should be reason for surprise. Our two peoples may, at first glance, seem worlds apart, both in geographic location and culture; but a closer look reveals that Singapore and the United States are nations made up of hardworking immigrants and their descendants, who came to a new homeland to improve their lot and build a decent life for their families. We're both democratic nations committed to peace and to the preservation of human liberty. And these bonds are being bolstered by continued cultural and educational exchanges and, of course, the many commercial ties between our peoples.

Mr. Prime Minister, we're aware that your people are now faced with severe challenges brought on by international economic conditions. The United States faced economic adversity not long ago; tough decisions had to be made. It's heartening to see that you're moving forward, Mr. Prime Minister, with an eye toward the long-run well-being of your people. I understand full well this is not always easy to do, but I want you and your citizens to know that the people of the United States want you to succeed and prosper. Our meetings today confirmed again the people of Singapore, as we say here, are our kind of people.

So, would you all join me in toasting the people of Singapore and the distinguished leader, Prime Minister Lee, and Mrs. Lee.

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, ladies and gentlemen, my wife and I are much honored and delighted to be here with you, enjoying your warm hospitality. We would like to express our special thanks to Mrs. Reagan, for we learned of her personal interest in the preparations for this splendid occasion. It is a rare and gracious First Lady who would personally settle and approve the menu, the wines, the floral arrangements, and the entertainment.

I read of Mrs. Reagan and her campaign against drug abuse. Her personal efforts and her attention to the details of the cause that she has championed has won her wide acclaim. I watched her on television, standing amidst the rubble of Mexico City a few days after the earthquake, bringing succor and comfort to the victims. After nearly 5 years in the White House, I notice the latest opinion poll puts her approval rating at 71 percent— [laughter] —ahead of the President's— [laughter] —and by 9 percent. [Laughter] Mr. President, your staff has to shape up— [laughter] —or you may have to borrow the First Lady's staff. [Laughter]

Mr. President, I have been a regular visitor of the United States for about two decades. It was an ordeal to watch America writhe in the self-inflicted agony at home during the years she tried to fight a war in Vietnam. And even after the war, she did not bounce back from her depression. And morale dropped to a new low when American hostages were held in Tehran. When you were taking your oath of office as President, the hostages were released. It was proof to me that the Iranian mullahs were not as crazy as the media had made them out to be. [Laughter]

You made your fellow Americans and your friends feel proud and optimistic by the confidence you radiated. You have never allowed any problem, however daunting, to weigh you down. Now, as imports surge into America because of an over-strong dollar, Congress, in its pessimism, moves towards protectionism. You have not yielded to such despair. You will astound your critics yet again when you turn the spell of apparent adversity to advantage by opening up foreign markets and creating new jobs for Americans. The Reagan years will surely be a noticeable landmark in American history, for you have restored American leadership in the maintenance of a just and equitable world order.

Mr. President, I have been privileged to share some of your thoughts today. The friendly relations between the United States and Singapore are at their best, indeed, as they should be. I have been a privileged guest in these surroundings under different Presidents, as I explained to the young lady so judiciously selected to be my companion tonight. [Laughter] I have never felt more relaxed and more at home, and I think I owe that to the other attractive young lady on my left. I have been here and have been impressed. Tonight, I have been here and have enjoyed myself. [Laughter]

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, may I now ask you to join me in a toast to the President and the First Lady to wish them good health and happiness.

Note: The President spoke at 10:12 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts at the State Dinner for Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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