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Toasts at the State Dinner for Queen Margrethe II of Denmark

February 20, 1991

The President. Prince Henrik, and ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure for Barbara and me to salute Queen Margrethe II, the heir to a thousand-year-old monarchy and the head of state of our very close friend and ally Denmark.

We honor her tonight as a superb queen and ruler. And yet we also honor her as an artist, translator, and scholar whose work aptly reflects the civilized and humane qualities of the Danish people.

And we also welcome and honor this evening Prince Henrik, our very special guest, an accomplished and energetic man whose contributions in business and in the environment and in charitable work have brought great credit to Denmark from all around the world.

We've been delighted that Her Majesty and the Prince Consort have chosen to send their sons Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim to travel and study in our country. In fact, we take it as a great national compliment that Prince Henrik, who owns a vineyard in France, sent the Crown Prince to study and work at a California winery. [Laughter] Very broadminded Prince we have here. [Laughter]

And from her birth during the darkest days of World War II, when she was seen as a symbol of hope for a nation under occupation, Queen Margrethe has been a source of inspiration to her country. She personifies the spirit of the Danish people, their courage during World War II, their many achievements today, and overall, their love of freedom.

Throughout its history, Denmark has been a guardian of liberty in both peacetime and war. Since President Jefferson and King Christian VII first established diplomatic relations, our nations have jointly fostered the liberty which sets and keeps men free. We saw that in World War II when Denmark smuggled virtually all of its Jews to freedom and when, even under occupation, almost your entire Danish merchant fleet willingly helped the Allies.

And tonight, your Navy and ours sail together in the Gulf. And this time we stand together against another brutal dictator, against another aggressor. Your Majesty, I am very proud that tonight with us is not only General Powell, who you met -- the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, but also the two ranking enlisted men in both our Navy and our Army, Master Chief Petty Officer Bushey and Sergeant Major of the Army Gates. And they and their colleagues from all our services are doing a superb job, just as your military people aboard your vessel are.

And I must tell you, Your Majesty, that our country is united behind them totally today, exactly as we were united in World War II. And patriotism is high here now -- and for our purpose, you see, is clear and our mission is just. And we are going to prevail. And your forces and ours will guarantee that the torch of freedom will illuminate Kuwait.

Thirty-one years ago, one of Denmark's greatest leaders, your father, said it best: "Let us unite," said King Frederik in a toast to President Eisenhower, "in the hope that the torch of freedom which we received from our fathers may also illuminate the path of our descendants for generations to come." And in that spirit I ask all of our guests tonight to raise their glasses to a third century, a third century of Danish-American friendship; to the peace we seek to win, the peace we intend to keep; and especially to Her Majesty and His Royal Highness and what they symbolize both for Denmark and to the United States and for the entire world.

To your health, Your Majesty.

Queen Margrethe. Mr. President, Mrs. Bush. The Prince Consort and I are deeply moved by the warm words of welcome which the President of the United States has just addressed to us and by the friendship towards Denmark which he has so beautifully expressed.

We are very much aware that our first state visit to the United States coincides in time with a serious war involving American forces as well as forces from many other nations under the auspices of the United Nations. We all hope that the suffering and the sacrifices of the war, brought into every home and all too vividly impressed on every mind by modern means of communication, will lead to respect and furtherance of the ideals of the United Nations.

Mr. President, the position of your office is unique among heads of state, not only because the United States is a world power but because the President is obliged to lead his country and fulfill his duties under the constant eye of the public -- indeed, in the glare of global publicity.

You have impressed us all, Mr. President, by the way in which you perform your functions in the face of these demanding conditions, dedicated to your high office and conscious of its obligations. You have come across as a man of integrity and a fellow human being not only to your own people but to so many others as well. And nobody can fail to notice the warm relationship and the personal support that you receive from Mrs. Bush.

The United States of America belongs to what is known as the New World, and that is the way you often like to characterize yourselves. But anyone who, like myself, has visited your country in 1976 when the American people celebrated the bicentennial is also aware of the long and proud tradition which you have established and that you so rightly cherish.

The Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution were directly inspired by political and philosophical thought as expounded by enlightened circles in Europe of that day. But the American contribution was unique. It kindled that spark which sooner or later gave rise to constitutional reform in countries all over Europe, including Denmark. The ideas of a just and humane society that caused such profound changes more than a century ago have never lost their relevance nor their impetus.

They lie behind the charter of the United Nations, and they have been reaffirmed in a number of international instruments for the protection of human rights. Only recently we have seen how people in Eastern Europe, under an intolerable pressure, found strength precisely in those values and ideas in order to realize their hopes for a better existence. Indeed, did not an echo of the opening words of your Constitution ring through their streets: "We, the people."

The ideals which inspired the Founding Fathers of the United States are as challenging today as they were more than 200 years ago. They are an everlasting spur to us all who try to follow them and to see them implemented. Sometimes we may almost despair of living up to them in practice. But we should never forget that they are ideals -- and ideals are never attained though we constantly attempt to fulfill them.

Generations of Americans and generations of Danes have lived in that attempt. Sometimes we've felt that we did succeed. Sometimes we've seemed to have fallen far, far short. Maybe those shared ideals and parallel experiences are part of the reason why we understand each other and like each other.

Ladies and gentlemen, I raise my glass in honor of the President of the United States and Mrs. Bush, and drink to the deep and warm friendship between our two countries and to the continued prosperity and happiness of the people of the United States of America.

Note: President Bush spoke at 8:15 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Prince Henrik, the Queen's husband, and her sons, Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim; President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Duane R. Bushey, master chief petty officer of the Navy; and Julian Gates, sergeant major of the Army.

George Bush, Toasts at the State Dinner for Queen Margrethe II of Denmark Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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