Remarks at a Ceremony Celebrating the 90th Birthday of John J. McCloy

April 2, 1985

The President. We are delighted to have so many distinguished guests here today as we pay tribute on his birthday to one of America's most distinguished public servants. John McCloy has had a long life -- 90 years -- and most of it marked by unparalleled service to his country and humanity.

Beginning with Franklin Roosevelt, he has served nine Presidents in a wide variety of assignments. Let me testify personally to the wisdom of John's counsel. I'm proud to say he was a member of our 1980 transition team, and I can recall the insight and advice that he gave me on American-German relations at the time -- insight and advice that is just as timely today as they were then.

In a few weeks I'll have a chance to more formally celebrate the friendship of the German and American peoples. But let me say now what no one can question: It was the heroic work of men like John McCloy during the difficult postwar period that did much to preserve world freedom and unite our two nations in friendship.

And on this note, President von Weizsacker, let me say how pleased we are to have you here today to celebrate this occasion. Your presence is an honor for the American people, but I think it's also a sign of the deep affection and high esteem the German people have for John McCloy.

We're also honored to have with us today the mayor of Berlin, Eberhard Diepgen. He has a special presentation to make on behalf of the people of his city -- a people who gratefully remember John McCloy's extraordinary work in the aftermath of the Berlin blockade and airlift.

It would take too long to recite for you the rest of John McCloy's many important contributions to our country and to the cause of peace and freedom. From wartime intrigue and espionage to European reconstruction after World War II, to disarmament negotiations spanning more than 30 years, John McCloy's high intellect and selfish heart -- selfless heart; I shouldn't have mispronounced that word above all -- John McCloy's selfless heart has made a difference, an enduring difference, in the lives of millions.

So, as your President, John, I salute you today not only for myself and all the Presidents you've served so well but for all your countrymen and the millions of people around the world whose lives you helped make safer because of your devotion to duty and to the cause of humanity. And again, a very happy birthday from all of us.

And now I would like to ask President von Weizsacker to say a few words -- Mr. President.

President von Weizsacker. Mr. President, may I join you on behalf of all my fellow Germans, both here and at home, in honoring a great man to whom both our nations owe an immense gratitude.

The Federal Republic of Germany today is one of the free and prosperous countries in the world -- a democracy of tested stability, an important partner in the Atlantic alliance. This seems rather natural and obvious and not particularly noteworthy to us today, but it was by no means to be foreseen in the early postwar period in Europe.

A decisive role in making this miracle possible was played by the man we are honoring today -- by John McCloy. It was his human decency in helping the beaten enemy to recover. It was his trust in freedom, his confidence in the deep roots of freedom among the Germans, that largely contributed to reestablish the free society in my country and to enable us to join the free nations in Europe and in the Atlantic community.

His realistic judgment, his vitality, and his actual influence were just as immense as were his fairness and his modesty. So, he became one of the foremost to have turned enemies into friends. The official visit which you, Mr. President, are going to pay to my country soon will reinforce the deep ties that bind us together. We share our values of freedom; we share the responsibility for peace; we share our future destiny.

So, it remains our common task to transmit this spirit to a younger generation. It is in this light that you, Mr. President, will be our most welcome guest a month from now. And it is in this mind that I have come to bring the warmest wishes of the German people and to pay tribute to John McCloy, a great statesman, a great American, and a great friend.

Now, with your permission, Mr. President, may I now ask the governing mayor of Berlin, Eberhard Diepgen, to say a few words in honoring McCloy from the Berliners.

Mayor Diepgen. Mr. President, the Bundestag President, the Berlin Senate, and the Berlin House of Representatives are today conferring upon you, Mr. McCloy, the dignity of an honorary citizen. This is the highest distinction that free Berlin can award.

As a high commissioner of an occupying power, only a few years after a terrible war, you, Mr. McCloy, helped us to rebuild the country which had been destroyed. And you helped us to attain the way of life of a free democracy.

When we Berliners speak about you, we think of the cessation of this mounting problem, the Marshall plan aid, and the rebirth of the Berlin economy. And we think of the American Memorial Library, the early years of the Free University, and the work of the Aspen Institute in our city. And we think of the unforgettable visit of President John F. Kennedy in Berlin.

That the free part of Berlin could become birthplace and symbol of membership of the free part of our country in the Western community -- the community of ideas -- is something which in a large extent we owe to you.

But in this hour, we do not look only back into the past with gratitude. In the spirit of the honorary citizen, in the spirit of the city of Berlin, we want to cement the German-American partnership and develop it further. Together, we must, and I'm sure we can, find the answers to the great questions of our time -- war, hunger, unemployment, and the destruction of nature.

Mr. McCloy, I should like to read out the text of the document of the honorary citizen: ``The Berlin Senate in agreement with the Berlin House of Representatives confers upon Mr. John J. McCloy the honorary citizenship of the state and the city of Berlin. In gratitude, we thereby honor the former High Commissioner of the United States of America in Germany and Chairman of the Board of the Ford Foundation for his outstanding services to Berlin. John McCloy is closely connected with the reconstruction and development of this city. His dedication contributed to a great extent to understanding of Berlin in the United States of America and to preservation of peace and freedom.''

Mr. McCloy, I congratulate you.

Mr. McCloy. Thank you very much, indeed, Mr. Burgermeister -- [inaudible]. [Laughter]

I'll respond to that. Well, thank you very much. You're the regierender burgermeister [governing mayor] of Berlin. Mr. President, thank you very much, indeed, for the comments that you made.

I'm a little sensitive about my age, Mr. President. But I think I ought to record the fact that I have served in two World Wars, and I served in World War I with a man who fought the Indians on the Plains. How short the span of American history really is. But that connotes -- that particular fact -- that, although I'm a little long in the tooth, the country has really got a very young life, and its great destinies are ahead of it.

I have another connotation, Mr. President, and that is that compared to me, what a spring chicken you are. [Laughter]

The President. John, you've made my day. [Laughter]

Mr. McCloy. Okay, well, this honor that I have received today -- I'm very sensitive about my old age; I'm very aware of it. Someone said the other day that -- to me -- I'm sure he was a friend of mine -- he said: ``Jack, did you ever stop and think that with short of a few years, your life represents one-half of the entire life of the country?'' Well, I hadn't thought of it before. It was a rather staggering statistic. But I've been thinking of it since.

Now, as for this very, very fine honor you've done me, Mr. Burgermeister -- you know, in Berlin, every time we went up there, it was very pleasant. As I got off the train or the plane -- whatever it was in that period of the blockade -- but as soon as I got off the plane, it was: ``Willkommen, Herr McCloy.'' We could make a lot of mistakes down in the zone, but we couldn't make any mistakes up in Berlin. They were glad to see ya. And it was really a very comforting thing -- the welcome that you got up there. And I stop and think frequently how much we owe to the Berliner, the Berliner with his geist [spirit] and his mut [courage] and his civil courage guess is the word. Did I pronounce that right?

What the -- not only Western city or Germany but the entire free world owes to the vigor and the strength and the spirit, the mut and, as I say, the civil courage of the Berliner. And we will continue for a long time to be grateful for the inspiration which he gave us because of his display of those features.

Well, I won't reminisce anymore. But I want to thank everybody here, and particularly the Secretary of State and the Vice President and this entire turnout. I see a great many people with whom I've had a good many vicissitudes. And let me just say how deeply appreciative I am of this tribute to me and how grateful I am for it.

Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 4:30 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.