Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech at State Department lunch

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Benjamin Franklin Room, Department of State, Washington DC
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1230-1445.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 992
Themes: Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

George ShultzMr. Secretary and Mrs. Shultz, Ladies and Gentlemen:

First, I must thank you, George, for that absolutely marvellous, unique and charming speech—absolutely wonderful! (applause) And also, can I join you in congratulating those who won this recent election splendidly and all of their helpers who managed to pull off that tremendous victory. I say that as a person who is used to the feel of elections well won! (applause) I am, after all, a third-term prime minister and I am so pleased that you have given me a new handbag so that it will last for a long time into the future. Thank you very much! It is a privilege and a pleasure to accept your generous hospitality here today in such splendid surroundings and among so many old friends. [end p1]

These wonderful rooms evoke memories of some of your illustrious predecessors:

The first, for example, Thomas Jefferson. When he became Secretary of State in 1790, he inherited a total staff of five and the State Department's annual budget in those frugal times was eight thousand dollars. There were, of course, drawbacks to governments that small. As Jefferson 's biographer tells us: “His staff did little besides copying—he did all the important things himself!” Mr. Secretary, some things never change!

Another of those unchanging things is the friendship between Britain and the United States. I often feel myself, Mr. Secretary, in the same position as Charles Dickens who wrote after his visit to the United States in 1668:

“Prejudiced I am not and never have been, except in favour of the United States.”

In the six years of your distinguished leadership of this Department, that friendship has become closer and deeper still and we stood together in moments of crisis. I think, just before your time, of the Falklands, during your time I think of Beirut, I think of Libya—and we have both been the stronger for standing together (applause). [end p2]

The 1980s have been a decade of remarkable accomplishments, both for the United States and for the West as a whole. You, Mr. Secretary, have played a central part in the achievements of the last six years:

First, the NATO Alliance: we have been through some difficult and testing times and we are immensely grateful for the time and effort that you have spent in consulting the Alliance every step of the way; that today, our defences are stronger and our political resolve clearer than ever.

And second, relations with the Soviet Union: events have moved rapidly since Mr. Gorbachev arrived on the scene but you, Mr. Secretary, saw the need for a new approach even before that. In a powerful and fareighted speech in 1984, you said:

“It seems to me that the West, if it is to compete effectively and to advance its goals, must develop the capacity for consistency and discipline and must fashion and stick to a long-term strategy.”

That was what you said.

The fascinating thing to me is that all of us—President Reagan, yourself on the other side of the Atlantic—have succeeded; have decided what we believed in and stuck to it through thick and thin and put it into operation and have converted others to what we believed in, to the advantage of everyone. [end p3]

And so we read one another's speeches; you find the same words: “principles” , “consistency” , “belief” , “convictions” coming up. It is perhaps no mistake—it is perhaps no surprise—that it was that view which has accomplished so much in the last eight years and your advice proved very sound, because under America's leadership, the West has fashioned—and has stuck to—a long-term strategy and the results speak for themselves: the first Arms Control Agreement that reduces nuclear weapons; the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, due to be completed by February next; the prospect of Cuban withdrawal from Angola, encouraged by patient and constructive American diplomacy; and the prospect, too, of Vietnamese withdrawal from Cambodia. Who could have prophesied those things eight years ago? And major changes—though not yet enough—in the way the Soviet Union treats its own people.

All this has brought us closer than at any time in my life to more stable and peaceful relations with the Soviet Union and your own role has been of crucial importance. Your twenty-nine meetings with Mr. Shevardnadze are testimony to that, and I believe that future generations will look back to this time and see it as a turning point in world history. [end p4]

Third, the spread of democratic, free-enterprise government. There is no mystery to this. Our system works! More and more countries—in Latin America and Asia and elsewhere—are realising that democracy and open markets mean growth and opportunity. You have made it a priority to spread that message of hope.

As you have said, Mr. Secretary, we have a winning hand, but even winning hands have to be played well—and you, Mr. Secretary, have done just that. Most of all, you have upheld American and Western interests with a characteristic mixture of calm perseverance, unflinching resolve and total integrity. It is no surprise, therefore, that respect for America stands high in the world today—and what a joy that is! In all this, Mrs. Shultz has been a great source of strength and support, and we thank and salute her too. We shall still look forward to drawing on your unrivalled experience and wise counsel in future, and we shall hope to see you both very often. [end p5]

Finally, George, may I say “thank you” to you as a true friend, the most patient of diplomats, the most trusted of advisers, the most loyal of allies, the most honourable of man. As Henry Longfellow put it: “You will leave behind you footprints on the sands of time” Our world is a better place and has a better future, because you have served in this great office of State.

May I ask you to rise and drink a toast to the Ronald ReaganPresident and also to George Shultz (applause)