Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

 

November 16, 1988

 

The President. Prime Minister Thatcher, here is a story from our Old West. It's said that a cowboy went out riding one day and suddenly stumbled into the Grand Canyon. And he's supposed to have said, ``Wow, something sure has happened here!'' [Laughter] Well, Prime Minister Thatcher, when we contemplate the world as it is today and how it was when we first met here 8 years ago, we too have a right to say: Something sure has happened.

 

When we first met on these grounds in 1981, economic crisis beset both our countries: Inflation and unemployment were reaching dangerously disruptive levels. The aggressive designs of squalid dictators, large and small, were seen everywhere. Totalitarian expansion was underway on four continents. Terrorism was growing. And in the face of the most massive arms buildup in human history, our own defenses had fallen into disrepair and decline. A new nuclear missile was aimed at Europe and Asia. There was talk of unilateral cutbacks and American withdrawals and nuclear freezes and questions about the alliance. Our alliance, the great alliance built with such difficulty and daring since the last world war, was in grave danger. All of these problems spoke to an even deeper crisis: a crisis of faith, a crisis of will among the democracies. Here in our own nation, there were those who questioned whether our democratic institutions could survive, whether the modern world had made them obsolete.

 

Well, now it's changed. Now the excitement and vigor and energy in the world is with the cause of freedom. As the United States and Great Britain and other free nations have prospered, we have seen an almost Newtonian revolution in the science of economics. We are learning that the way to prosperity is not more bureaucracy and redistribution of wealth but less government and more freedom for the entrepreneur and for the creativity of the individual.

 

Change, extraordinary change has come upon the world. And that's why at this moment, Prime Minister Thatcher, we're especially glad to be welcoming you here to our shores and to have this opportunity to acknowledge the special role that you and the people of Great Britain have made in achieving this remarkable change.

 

It was my privilege, last June, shortly after my return from Moscow, to note in a speech at Guildhall your extraordinary role in the revitalization of freedom. Today, in welcoming you to these shores, I and the American people again restate our gratitude. In the critical hour, Margaret Thatcher and the people of Great Britain stood fast in freedom's defense and upheld all the noblest of your island nation's traditions; yours was the part of courage and resolve and vision.

 

Bismarck reflected once that the supreme fact of the 19th century was that Great Britain and the United States shared the same language. And surely future historians will note that a supreme fact of this century was that Great Britain and the United States shared the same cause: the cause of human freedom. And together we've come a long way in striving for that cause. Even in the terrible disappointment following the last world war, when we realized all we had striven for in that great conflict -- world peace and freedom -- would once again elude us and that we would have to begin again and stand together again in facing the menace of war and totalitarian tyranny, even then we did not lose heart.

 

And stand together we have. When first you were here, Prime Minister Thatcher, we referred to a ``decade fraught with danger.'' We can hope today that in meeting those dangers we have transformed this decade into a turning point, a turning point for our age and for all time.

 

In continuing this work, it is profoundly reassuring to me and to all who care about freedom that you will continue to share with America your vision and your steady hand. And this is especially critical to us at this moment of transition in our government.

 

So, whatever the future may hold, today the American people express to you our thanks, our affection, and our determination to stand with you until freedom has triumphed. Sir Winston put it very well when he said: ``The day may dawn when fairplay, love for one's fellow men, respect for justice and freedom will enable tormented generations to march forth serene and triumphant. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair.''

 

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, may I thank you most warmly for those kind words of welcome and for this marvelous ceremony, which I shall never forget. It is a great honor to be your last official guest after 8 historic years of your Presidency, one of the greatest in America's history. It's an opportunity to affirm anew the deep friendships not only between ourselves but between the British and American peoples, an opportunity to salute all that you have accomplished over these 8 years on behalf of this great nation and of free people everywhere, and an opportunity to look ahead to the bright promise of the future.

 

Mr. President, when you welcomed me to the White House on my first official visit to Washington under your Presidency, you forecast two things: first, that the decade would be less dangerous if the West maintained the strength required for peace, and second, that Britain and America would stand side by side in that endeavor. Both promises have been honored, and honored handsomely. We thank you for being such a staunch and loyal ally and friend to our country. Together our nations have faced the challenges of our time and have not flinched. We forged ahead with strengthening the peace, spreading prosperity, and safeguarding liberty. Your conviction, Mr. President, that the only sure peace is one founded on a strong defense has enabled us to take a first historic step in the reduction of nuclear arms.

 

You, sir, have presided over a period of economic expansion unparalleled in peacetime in recent American history. But, above all, Mr. President, you have restored faith in the American dream, a dream of boundless opportunity built in enterprise, individual effort, and personal generosity. As a result, respect for America stands high in the world today.

 

And thanks to your courage and your leadership, the fire of individual freedom burns more brightly not just in America, not just in the West, but right across the world. We in Britain, Mr. President, have been proud to be your partners in that great adventure. We counted it a privilege to join you in enlarging freedom and furthering the democratic way of life.

 

Two hundred years ago, Tom Paine told the founders of this great nation: ``We have it in our power to begin the world over again.'' Mr. President, the office which you hold is the greatest in the world. But it is the man who holds that office, you, sir, who has enabled us to begin the world over again. We salute and thank you for it.

 

Note: The President spoke at 10:10 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House, where the Prime Minister was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors. Following the ceremony, the President and the Prime Minister met in the Oval Office.