Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1990 May 8 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

Speech on Eisenhower Centenary (in Cabinet Room)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Speech
Venue: Cabinet Room, No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Between 1010 and 1050. Vice-President Quayle and Susan Eisenhower also spoke.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1423
Themes: Defence (general), Foreign policy (USA)

Prime Minister

Can I welcome you Dan QuayleMr. Vice-President and Mrs. Quayle and other members of the Eisenhower Centennial Delegation to this formal session in our Cabinet Room, which has seen so much history? It is, of course, a particular pleasure to have General Eisenhower 's grand-daughter and also Jessica Catto whose mother was President Eisenhower 's Secretary for Health, Education and Welfare.

We honour today a great soldier and a distinguished President, Dwight David Eisenhower, “Ike” as we all learned to call him. You could not, Mr. Vice-President, have chosen a more fitting day to mark the centenary of his birth. It was on this day, the 8th May, forty-five years ago, that the War ended in Europe—Victory For Europe Day. The victory against Japan had to be fought for still longer and was still to come. [end p1]

It is also fitting that three of the Allies are represented here today and that we are gathered in the Cabinet Room of No. 10 Downing Street, which Ike himself would have known well.

May I also note that tomorrow we shall celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill 's arrival in No. 10 as Britain's greatest Prime Minister, so these days are full of memories of great events and great leaders, memories which should inspire all of us.

General Eisenhower shared our dark days and became an architect of our freedom. As Supreme Allied Commander, he contributed as much as any man to Allied victory. He led the Allied forces in North Africa and in the invasion of Italy; he assembled in this country the greatest invasion force the world has ever seen. He led it to a foothold on the French coast and then directed the Allied troops across the Continent to victory over Hitler 's forces.

Winston Churchill called him a great commander who could not only lead an army but could stir men's hearts. He holds a very special place in the hearts of the British people. He commands a noble place in our history. We liked Ike—we counted him as one of us.

Last year, I was proud to be asked to unveil a statue to him in Grosvenor Square. I spoke then of Ike the soldier, of his military achievements; time will not diminish our memory of those or our gratitude. To us, General Eisenhower was a hero. [end p2]

Like you, Mr. Vice-President, he was a Mid-Westerner. He embodied all those qualities of resoluteness, faith and fellowship which epitomise the heartland of America. Those same qualities carried him from his war-time role to become Chief of Staff of the United States Army and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, where his task was to organise the forces of NATO, to forestall the possibility of Soviet expansion westward and eventually, in 1952, to become the 34th President of the United States—a soldier, a statesman and a politician holding your country's highest office. He was all of those.

But this year above all others, we should perhaps reflect on Ike the statesman. The march of events in Eastern Europe now reveals the full measure of the man and of his foresight. On this day, forty-five years ago, he spoke in his Victory Order to the Allied Expeditionary Force—I have a copy of the Victory Order beside me—of solving the many problems then facing Europe and to come, by cooperation and devotion to the cause of human freedom. It is remarkable that in his Victory Order that is what he spoke of: cooperation and devotion to the cause of human freedom.

He used to work for what he called an age of just peace, one pursued by a free world, aroused as rarely in history by the will to stay free and determined to stay vigilant in its defence. [end p3]

In a speech in Washington in the Spring of 1953 … prophetic, which I also have here, he saw the United States striving from the firm foundation of NATO to foster a broader European Community conducive to the free movement of persons, of trade and of ideas, a Europe that included a free and united Germany with a government based on a free and secret ballot. He foresaw this free community and the full independence of the East European nations spanning the end of the unnatural division of Europe. He worked for the reduction in the burden of armaments then weighing upon the world. Indeed, one of his proposals— “Open Skies” —is now being realised, and I am sure he would have been proud that it was two Republican Presidents—President Reagan and President Bush—who brought his vision to fruition.

He once said that he no longer thought like an American but like an ally. We in Britain owe him an immense debt for his war-time contribution, for the firm foundation which he laid for our defence through NATO and for his part in forging the Anglo-American Alliance as we know it today. Both at the highest levels and in the everyday cooperation and in the hearts of the people, this Alliance is the closest in the world. [end p4]

Above all, President Eisenhower was a man of deep spiritual convictions. He believed that the faith we hold belongs not to us alone but to free people everywhere. His conviction shone through in the prayer he wrote, in which he said: “May the light freedom coming to all darkened lands, flame brightly until at last the darkness is no more. May the turbulence of our age yield to a true time of peace when men and nations shall share a life that honours the dignity of Earth, the brotherhood of all!”

So today, in this Cabinet Room with its more than 250 years of history, we say “Thank you” for the life of Dwight David Eisenhower. We are proud that he walked among us. Thank you! [end p5]

Vice-President Quayle

Thank you very much, Prime Minister.

On behalf of the Eisenhower Commission, let me just pay a special debt of gratitude to you personally for taking the time to be with us. As you know, we are commemorating the centennial of the birth of Dwight David Eisenhower.

I think you said that he represented the Alliance. Eisenhower always did what he thought was right for America and what was right for the Alliance and by doing what was right, he stood four-square for peace and for freedom and you in your vast contribution in working with our President George Bush, and former President Ronald Reagan, have seen the peace and freedom that have come to Europe and now we must carry on that victory that we acknowledge.

Peace and freedom has made tremendous progress but there are tremendous challenges ahead, but on behalf of the delegation that has just come from Italy—we are on our way to France—we do acknowledge the special relationship we have always had with you and your country. [end p6]

Dwight David Eisenhower came from what he called “the heartland of America,” but he was perhaps best epitomised as “the heartbeat of the world” . He was a person who had a great vision and that vision is coming true today because of the hard work of you and the hard work of our President and others that have the same dedication and the same goals that Dwight David Eisenhower did.

So on behalf of the Commission I would like to present you with a silver dollar.

Prime Minister

Thank you very much! It is one specially struck for the centennial, is it?

Vice-President Quayle

Yes, it is.

Prime Minister

We have so many reasons to remember and thank Ike. He really struck a chord in the hearts of our people and so we are delighted to be taking part in the centennial and thank you very much for this silver dollar. [end p7]

Susan Eisenhower

Mrs. Thatcher, on behalf of the Eisenhower Centennial Foundation and most particularly the Eisenhower family, I would like to give you a pictorial history of grandad's life. I think you will enjoy many of the pictures—so many of them relate to his relationship with Great Britain—and I would just like to add a personal note: I am deeply touched by your remarks this morning.

Prime Minister

Thank you very much. I shall love looking through this because I am of the generation which remembers quite a lot of it. I remember it very vividly because I was still a child when it happened and I was young and the memories, as you know, that you have as children are etched not only on your mind but on your heart. Thank you very much indeed!