Mr Chairman, Ronald ReaganMr President, Ladies and Gentleman.
We are here tonight to celebrate the 80th birthday of a great American.
His is not, of course, an altogether typical American life —not even in the great Republic does every poor boy grow up to be President—but it is the ideal American life.
The extraordinary range of achievement and experience spanned by President Reagan's career—from a poor but loving family in the Depression, to stardom at the height it Hollywood story, to the leadership of the Free World at its most testing is a living example of what the world has learned to call the American dream.
If I may put it in terms familiar to many in this audience, it's a career that begins as Andy Hardy, takes off as A Star is Born, continues as Mr Smith Goes to Washington and reaches its climax with The Best Years of Our Lives.
Your recent autobiography, Mr President, may be the first book ever to win an Oscar—for the best original screenplay.
Ronnie, I was a fan of yours long before either of us entered politics. Kings Row, The Voice of the Turtle, The Hasty Heart they all made their way to Grantham.
I think I missed Bedtime for Bonzo, but I'm told that too was part of the Reagan career.
In those days, Mr President, you were quite popular enough in Britain to stand for Parliament with every prospect of your customary landslide, but you did not take political office until 1966.
Later you became President at the age of 69 and to serve for two terms is—well, quite an incentive to those of us about to start a new career late in life.
Mr President, the Reagan years were great years for America and for the world. They transformed economic malaise into economic recovery—the longest period of rising prosperity in American history.
In summing up that achievement, I can do not better than repeat a remark made by Sam Goldwyn when he was judging a film script: “That story is wonderful. It's magnificent. It's prolific.” So too have been the Reagan years.
The economic recovery was but part of a wider recovery of America's spirit and her role in the world.
Mr President, you took office at a time when the Soviet Union had not long invaded Afghanistan, was placing missiles in Eastern Europe, and assisting communist guerillas in the Third World to instal themselves in power.
All of that was reversed by America's recovery of self-confidence, by your calm and skilful exercise of American power, and by the strengthening of America's defences.
Some, I know, have criticised this defence build-up as wasteful or too expensive.
How ill-judged that criticism looks today.
The defence budgets of the 1980s, which you and Cap Weinberger pushed through against great odds, have provided President Bush and the Armed Forces with the sophisticated technology that at this moment is engaged in defeating aggression.
Mr President, you set out to enlarge freedom the world over when freedom was in retreat.
And you succeeded—with perhaps a little help from friends.
Ten years on, freedom is the idea that captures men's minds—in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, on the ruins of the Berlin Wall, in the embattled Baltic states, in the streets of Moscow, in Red Square itself—that is the measure of the change you wrought.
That is your abiding achievement.
Twenty-five years ago in a famous speech you Mr President quoted Franklin Roosevelt to the effect that we all have a rendez-vous with destiny.
Certainly you has such a rendez-vous.
Thank God you were on time.
Mr President, I am proud to have been beside you when you held high the torch of freedom. [end p20]
Today, far across the ocean in the desert sands, freedom is threatened once again by yet another tyrant of our time.
The USA and the UK, bound by a friendship which has long endured and which has never been closer, stand together in the fight as we have stood so often.
With more than half the free world joined with our two countries against Saddam Husseinthe despot of the Middle East, with our successors nurtured by the same ideals, the same belief in peace with freedom and justice that sustained us—let there be no doubt that freedom will prevail. [end p22]
Enduring success never comes easily.
It is said that
“it take struggles in life to make strength
it takes fight for principles to make fortitude
it takes crises to give courage
and it takes singleness of purpose to reach an objective”
That, Mr President, describes your life story.
On this your birthday we salute you and say “God Bless America” .