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1981 Feb 26 Th
Margaret Thatcher

Exchange of toasts at White House Dinner

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Speech
Venue: The White House, Washington DC
Source: Thatcher Archive: White House transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: MT’s speech finished at 2141 Eastern Standard Time. The transcript was released by the Office of the White House Press Secretary.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1104
Themes: Conservatism, Economy (general discussions), Foreign policy (USA)

Prime Minister Thatcher

Ronald ReaganMr. President, ladies and gentlemen, may I first thank you, Mr. President, for your wonderful hospitality this evening, for this remarkably beautiful banquet, and for the lovely music which you arranged for our delight.

I thought as I heard that song “I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar places.” This is quite a nice, old, familiar place in which to see you, Mr. President. (Laughter.) And I hope we'll be able to sing that song for very, very many years. And what was the other? “There will be bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover tomorrow when the dawn is free.” Well, the dawn is free now. And you and I have to try to make something of it which would match the hopes of those who made it free.

We started this momentous day on your lawn, Mr. President, in weather, that when it occurs at some public occasion with us, we describe as royal weather. And it's a great pleasure to end the day in your house at this glittering dinner party as guests of you and Mrs. Reagan.

We've heard so much of your oratory as a speaker and it's been such a delight to hear you speak. And I've been very moved by what you've said.

I'm told, Mr. President, that when you and Mrs. Reagan were inspecting your new home where we're dining this evening to see what refurbishment was needed, you came across some charred areas, vestiges of certain heated events in 1812. (Laughter.) I don't think I need apologize for them because I'm relieved to hear that Mrs. Reagan saw in this not a source of historical reproach, but an opportunity for redecorations (laughter) and very beautiful it is. (Applause.)

This sense of renewal that's in the air is making itself felt far beyond this lovely house. You, Mr. President, won a massive victory in November after a marvelous campaign in which you made clear your determination to set your country on a fresh course. You under-lined that determination last week in a budget speech which I very much admired and so it seemed to me did all those who heard it.

Mr. President, when you come to visit us in Britain, and I do hope it will be soon, you'll find that there's been change and renewal in the Old World too. Indeed, not long ago I was reading a book whose author had visited London shortly after the war. He wrote that “in spite of the homesickness, the hunger and annoyance at socialist bumbling, my farewell to London held its measure of regret. There were friendships made and cherished to this day.”

Mr. President, you were that homesick and hungry author. You will remember the book which you wrote after, I think, you'd been making a film. Was it the Hasty Heart in London?

Well, I doubt whether I'll be able to do much about your homesickness. You may even feel hunger if you're in search of a real American jelly been in London. (Laughter.) But when you do come over, I can promise you two things. The first is the friendship of the [end p1] British people; the second is that the years of socialist bumbling are at an end.

I am proud to lead a Conservative administration in Britain. For me, and I know for you, too, conservatism does not mean maintenance of the status quo. It means maintenance of the old values, the only background against which one could make the changes and adaptations which have to be made to keep abreast of the technological change that we need to embrace for a prosperous future.

Conservatism means harnessing, but still more, the liberation of the fundamental strengths and resources which make a country great, which make its people prosperous and self-reliant. [end p2]

As a Conservative I want determined and decisive government. But that's something very different from an all-powerful government. You and I, Mr. President, believe in strong governments in areas where only governments can do the job, areas where governments can and must be strong, strong in the defense of the nation, strong in protecting law and order, strong in promoting a sound currency. If we do these things very well we shall indeed be leaders of strong government doing the things that only government can do.

But for too long and in too many places we've seen government assume the role of universal provider and universal arbiter. In many areas of our daily life there are hard but essential choices to be made. But in a free society those choices ought not to be made by government but by free men and women and managers and workforce alike whose lives and livelihood are directly affected.

Mr. President, wall-to-wall government is no substitute for that freedom of choice. Wall-to-wall government is economically inefficient and morally demeaning to the individual. Just take a look at those countries where the art has been brought to its cold, callous perfection to see where that leads.

Mr. President, in Britain's case we've set ourselves to reverse a process of industrial decline which has lasted decades. We too seek to release the real energies of the wealth-creating sector in the first place and, above all, by conquering the crippling forces of inflation. We're winning that battle. The cost is heavy, particularly in terms of the present levels of unemployment. But we won't solve that problem just by reflation, whatever the short term attractions.

The only true solution is a revitalized economy, providing real jobs of permanent economic viability. That is our goal and we're going to stick to it. Now above all is the time to stay on course. I say that, Mr. President, not least because only a firmly based economy can enable us to act as a strong and effective partner in an alliance, and that we are determined to be. Because an enduring alliance with the United States is fundamental to our beliefs and our objectives. Never in the post-war years has that alliance been more essential to us all. You spoke of Winston Churchill. We all do. Nearly fifty years ago Winston told our two countries that together there is no problem we cannot solve. We are together tonight. Together let us prove him right.

Mr. President, it is my very, very great pleasure to ask the assembled company to rise and drink a toast to our wonderful host, the new leader not only of the United States but of the whole of the western world. I give you the toast, the President of the United States, President Reagan. (Toast.) (Applause.)

The President

Madam Prime Minister, thank you very much. And now may I invite all of you to go to the Green and the Blue and the Red Rooms for coffee and liqueurs and from there then make your way into the East Room where you started this evening and where we are going to be entertained for a period by the Harlem Ballet. So I think we shall lead the way and all have our coffee in there.

That is as soon as the news media gets out of the way.

9:41 P.M. EST