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Toasts at the State Dinner Honoring Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson of Sweden

September 09, 1987

The President. Prime Minister Carlsson and Mrs. Carlsson, ladies and gentleman, welcome to the White House. Nancy told me much about the warmth and good will that was so evident in Sweden during her June visit. We both have looked forward to this opportunity to express our appreciation and to return the hospitality so graciously extended to her.

I welcome you, Mr. Prime Minister, as long-overdue friends. Sweden, while quite some distance in miles, has never seemed very far away to me. As a boy in northern Illinois I had neighbors with names like Hansson and Lund. This morning in the course of our discussions, I realized anew what I have long known: that Sweden and America share the same basic values and the same hopes for a more peaceful and prosperous world. We often pursue our similar goals through different means, but our democratic traditions have bred in us both an appreciation for diversity and an understanding that there is often more than one way to achieve a goal.

Today we welcome our guests with special warmth because this is not merely the visit of a Prime Minister on an official trip but also somewhat of a sentimental journey. In 1960, Mr. Prime Minister, early in your married life, you went to Northwestern University in Illinois, where you attended graduate school and Mrs. Carlsson worked in the university library. A hard-working young couple building a future together. I'm happy to note that the still-young Carlssons next month will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. [Applause] You've heard this, and let me add the warm congratulations of both Nancy and myself. I understand you'll be visiting Northwestern again this Saturday, and I wish you a most pleasurable return to this special place.

Mr. Prime Minister, our countries have been friends as long as the United States has been a country. Today we've had the opportunity to reaffirm the bonds of affection between our peoples and to talk of the issues we, as the leaders of two free nations, face in the world. Prime Minister and Mrs. Carlsson, I raise my glass to you and to the Swedish people in friendship, and I ask all of you to join me in this toast and in a hearty skal.

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, ladies and gentleman, this beautiful dinner in the White House is the culmination of a day of intense and interesting talks with our American friends. The splendor of this evening and the opulent beauty of the Washington summer highlight the character of the Swedish-American friendship.

In several respects, no comparison between our two countries is possible. We're obviously a different size. We're certainly a different influence. We have different histories, and we sometimes voice different views. But in many other respects our two nations are very similar. What has been called the American way of life has a great attraction for many Swedes, not least for the young. American trends in art, music, and sports seem to reach our shores faster and stay longer than in many other countries.

But some of the influence has also been in the other direction. During the last century, more than a million Swedes came to this country, and most of them came to stay and start a new life here, bringing with them a part of Sweden to this land. You will still remember many of them. One is Carl Sandburg, the son of a Swedish immigrant who became one of America's greatest poets. Another is Jenny Lind, a much-loved Swedish singer who toured this country for several years in the 19th century. The aviator Charles Lindbergh was the grandson of a Swedish farmer. And if we look at the most recent wave of immigration, we find that there are no less than 22 Swedish players in the teams of the National Hockey League. [Laughter]

There is still great interest among Swedes in traveling to the United States. This interest is encouraged, for instance, by an extensive student exchange program and is, above all, supported by the generosity of American colleges and universities in admitting students from overseas. I'm one of the Swedes who once studied in this country. The year which my wife, Inga, and I spent at Northwestern University in Illinois was one of our most memorable. We very much look forward to returning there this weekend to revive old memories.

Mr. President, during our talks today, we agreed that the close and friendly Swedish-American relations are in a dynamic phase, with intensified contacts in many fields. One very good example is, of course, the visit which you, Mrs. Reagan, made to Sweden in June. Permit me to add, Mrs. Reagan, that your knowledge of and your dedication to the grave problems of drug abuse made a profound impression on your Swedish hosts.

Two days ago I had the privilege of personally visiting the U.S.S. Constitution, a very fine ship in the port of Boston. We were there again reminded of the forthcoming bicentennial of the American Constitution to be celebrated in Philadelphia next week. We are proud that Sweden is one of five countries singled out to be honored there for having had diplomatic relations with the United States for more than 200 years. Next year we will see another celebration of the 350th anniversary of the first Swedish settlement in America. We deeply appreciate it that you, Mr. President, on this account, have proclaimed 1988 as the Year of New Sweden.

I spoke initially about the differences and the similarities between our two countries. We are both engaged by and concerned with events beyond our borders. This is natural for the United States as a major partner in several military alliances. But it's also the natural course for Sweden as a neutral country, since we, too, are affected by international developments. In particular, we know that we all run the risk of annihilation in a nuclear exchange.

Let me, therefore, Mr. President, in conclusion, again assure you that Sweden will support every effort by you and your Soviet counterpart to begin a process of reducing nuclear arms. I understand that you are near an historic breakthrough in the endeavor to start dismantling nuclear weapons. There are millions of people around the world who share your sentiments, Mr. President, about the immorality of a nuclear war. The fact that an agreement is near which may make such a war so much less likely is a signal of hope to all mankind.

May I finally ask you all to join me in a toast of the President and Mrs. Reagan, to the American people, and to the friendship between Sweden and the United States.

Note: The President spoke at 9:44 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts at the State Dinner Honoring Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson of Sweden Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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