Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech at British Residence (banquet)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: British Residence, Washington DC
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: Dinner began at 1930. President Reagan spoke after MT.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1639

Prime Minister

It is a very special occasion indeed and a great honour to Britain when Ronald Reaganthe President of the United States and the Nancy ReaganFirst Lady, together with such a glittering company, come to dinner at Her Majesty's Ambassador's residence. We welcome you here this evening, Sir (applause).

In this year 1985, it adds splendour to an important anniversary in our relations. In 1785, John Adams, the first American envoy to Britain, was formally received by King George III, and thus opened 200 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries.

Of course, there have been a few changes in diplomacy since then, and I am told there is a Memorandum surviving in the Smithsonian from President Jefferson to his Secretary of State, in which he wrote as follows: “We have not heard anything from our Ambassador to France for three years. If we do not hear from him this year, let us write him a letter.”

Of course, American Ambassadors in London have been much more communicative than American Ambassadors in Paris, but no doubt, Charlie Price was such a good ambassador to London and Oliver Wright, who I believe is such a good ambassador here (applause) sometimes wish they still lived in such an easy-going world. [end p1]

I have discovered another interesting fact. American ambassadors to London tend to go places. Five of them including John Adams and his son, became President of the United States and eight became Secretaries of State. Well, Charlie, we will be watching you …   ., but for the avoidance of doubt, Geoffrey Howe and I would like to remind Oliver Wright that there is no such tradition with our …   .

Perhaps I should also mention that 1985 marks the 200th anniversary of a famous British institution, the “Times” newspaper, and one of the first reports carried by the “Times” shortly after its launching was of the reception given to John Adams when he presented his credentials, not that John Adams himself found that an exactly comfortable occasion. What worried him most was that he would have to make a complimentary speech about King George III and that was not calculated to endear him to the folks at home at that time!

But this evening, Mr. President, I have no such inhibitions about being complimentary about everything about the United States. We in Britain think you are a wonderful President (applause) and from one old hand to another, welcome to a second term! (applause) And Denis ThatcherDenis will be saying exactly the same to Nancy ReaganNancy and neither of us could have done what we have done without them (applause).

I remember with pride and with gratitude many occasions we have shared during your first term: the Williamsburg Summit, with all its pageantry and history; your powerful and moving address to the assembled Lords and Commons in London in the Royal Gallery; your visit to us last year for the London [end p2] Economic Summit; and most recently, my expedition to Camp David. We have always found it easy to discuss great matters together. We see so many things in the same way. We share so many of the same goals, and a determination to achieve them, which you summed up so well and alas, I cannot imitate this wonderful American English accent … “you ain't seen nothing yet” .

Mr. President, over the 200 years that our countries have dealt with each other, it has not always been plain sailing, but one thing has not changed: the joint common sense which is an essential part of our common heritage has always led the two governments to resolve their differences and to work constructively together for our common purpose. Our joint interest prevails and I know they will continue to prevail. There is a union of mind and purpose between our peoples which is remarkable and which makes our relationship truly a special one. I am often asked if it is special, and why, and I say: “It is special. It just is and that is that!”

As Winston once said—Winston Churchill— “The experience of a long life and the promptings of my blood, have wrought in me the conviction that there is nothing more important for the future of the world than the fraternal association of our two peoples in righteous work, both in war and peace!” No-one could put it better than that.

Let us look forward with confidence to the next 200 years of Anglo-American friendship, to an enduring and confident alliance and to peace and freedom for today's and future generations. May I ask you to rise and drink a toast—the President of the United States of America—the President! [end p3]

President Reagan

Prime Minister, Vice-President Bush, Secretary of State, Defence Secretary, Saint …   . Sir Oliver …   . Saint Oliver! No, Sir Oliver! Lady Wright, and Ladies and Gentlemen:

Tonight, as we have just been told—and I have to preface this by saying, based on the career that I once had before this one, you are a very tough act to follow (applause). Tonight, we celebrate, as we have been told, 200 years of diplomatic relations between Great Britain and the United States. For two centuries, we have been trading partners, we have stood together through two great world conflicts. Forty years ago last summer, Americans and Englishmen joined together in an invasion launched from Britain, the greatest invasion in all of man's history. Together, we fought on the sands of Normandy and together we reclaimed a continent to liberty. Prime Minister, the United States and the United Kingdom are bound together by inseparable ties of ancient history and present friendship. Our language, our law—even though you do use our language with an accent—our democratic system of government and our fierce belief in the God-given right of all men to be free, all of these the United States share with your proud island.

We share a deep affection for one another, but then there have been a few moments in our history when relations were not so smooth. I remember being tempted to recall one of those at the Summit Conference at Williamsburg where the opening meeting was a dinner in what had been the British Colonial Governor's residence and I thought that I was all set to open [end p4] the Summit, because when we were seated around the table, the Heads of seven States, I was going to say to Margaret Thatcher that had one of her predecessors been a little more clever, she would have been hosting the gathering, and so with my well thought out line I opened that if one of her predecessors had been a little more clever and she turned to me and said: “I know, I would have been the host!” So I am careful, but anyway, Margaret, welcome back to America.

In our discussions, I have as always been delighted by the vigour, the clarity and the directness of your views, and I wanted to tell you that when I ran for office in 1980, I was greatly encouraged by the victory that you won in 1979 and it was very thoughtful of you to set me another good example in 1983.

We have been inspired by your leadership.

Sir Oliver and Lady Wright, thank you for hosting this splendid event. Nancy and I are honoured to be here. We celebrate tonight our past and our future.

Great challenges loom ahead and we must do all that we can to expand human freedom and unleash the great potential for economic growth, both in our countries and in throughout the world.

In our own countries, we have already done much to free our economies from the dead hand of government control, but we can do more.

Here in America, we are determined to reduce spending growth and significantly reduce tax rates further by simplifying our entire tax structure.

In international commerce, our task is to knock down [end p5] barriers to trade and foreign investment and to the free movement of capital, and I look forward to working with you on these matters as we prepare for the 11th Economic Summit of industrialised nations in Bonn.

In foreign affairs, we and our NATO allies have stayed strong, while demonstrating our openness to genuine arms reductions, and, Prime Minister Thatcher, I know that you share my satisfaction that the Soviets have agreed to return to the bargaining table, and now we must press on together for success in mutual and verifiable arms reductions and a more secure peace.

We believe that our Strategic Defence Initiative represents the most hopeful possibility of the nuclear age, and we greatly appreciate your support. In many areas of this research, technical progress appears very promising and we are eager to be joined in this research by our allies and look forward to collaborating with you.

It is hard to be here on this candle-lit evening in your stately embassy without thinking of the great men and women—British and American—who have gone before us and who have worked together as we do today. I think of FDR and Churchill conferring in the rain; Roosevelt deeply admired his friend Winston. And many of us remember the warmth John Kennedy felt for Harold Macmillan and Macmillan 's grief after Kennedy 's tragic death. There has been something very special about the friendships between the leaders of our two countries and may I say to my friend the Prime Minister, I would like to add two more names to this list of affection—Thatcher and Reagan.

Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, mindful of the two centuries of diplomatic relations that our two nations have [end p6] enjoyed, and grateful for our common heritage of liberty and in a spirit of celebration, please join me in a toast to your gracious Sovereign, to Her Majesty the Queen. (applause)