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Remarks by the President and His Majesty King Harald V. in Exchange of Toasts

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Trip to Oslo Norway

Office of the Press Secretary
(Oslo, Norway)

For Immediate Release November 1, 1999


The Royal Palace
Oslo, Norway

1:26 P.M. (L)

HIS MAJESTY KING HARALD V: Mr. President, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. Even the longest journey starts with a small step. But your visit, Mr. President, is a giant leap forward for our already excellent bilateral relations. Few people know that you were in Oslo as a student. This time, the whole nation will remember your visit. I wish you a warm welcome to the true and tender north.

I, personally, feel a special affinity for the United States, which dates from my childhood. Following the occupation of Norway in 1940, my mother accepted an invitation from President Roosevelt to take refuge in the United States. One thing I remember quite clearly is standing right behind President Roosevelt when he was sworn in for his first term.

Relations between our two countries have always been close. In 1814, the founding fathers of the new Norwegian state looked to America for inspiration, especially to the ideas embodied in your Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Our communities have evolved over the years, but the key values remain the same. Our firm belief in freedom, democracy and human rights reflects our political and historical kinship.

Mr. President, Norwegians have always been warmly received in the United States. During the 19th century, almost one-third of our population left for a new life on the other side of the Atlantic. Almost every Norwegian has a relative in America. These family ties have forged a connection unparalleled in our relationship with any other nation.

When Norway regained its full independence in 1905, the United States was the first country with which we established diplomatic relations. During World War II, we were allies in the fight for freedom and democracy. Norway will never forget the decisive role played by the United States in the liberation of Europe, nor its generous contribution to reconstruction and rehabilitation through the Marshall Plan.

These historical ties, our unbreakable bonds and shared values continue to guide us in our determination to work together to safeguard peace and stability and promote international development and prosperity. Even though the Cold War is over, the world remains unpredictable. The transatlantic solidarity and cooperation in NATO form the core of our defense and security policy. Europe is in a state of transition. NATO and the European Union have embarked upon historic processes of enlargement. A new foundation for Europe's development is being laid now, as the year 2000 draws near.

Only through the combined efforts of the United States and Europe can there be any hope of peaceful and lasting solutions. The United States and Norway have a vital interest in promoting stability and cooperation in Europe. We strongly support the development of a democratic, prosperous and stable Russia. In solving our common problems, the international community must act together. Norway will make its contribution.

Mr. President, it is important to underline that our friendship is not only based on necessity. When we address you as "friends," this is not an empty phrase. The Queen and I have enjoyed several visits to your country; the most memorable was our trip across the American continent in 1995, when we also had the privilege to be invited to the White House and spent an unforgettable evening with you and the First Lady.

This wonderful journey left us with a powerful impression of the diversity of your nation, the vast distances, the magnificent scenery, the great economic and cultural creativity and, not least, the dedication and optimism of the people. During our journey we also visited communities made up largely of people of Norwegian descent and institutions founded by Norwegian immigrants. We were grateful to learn how much their efforts have contributed both to the building of American society and to the strengthening of our bilateral relations.

Crown Prince Haakon, who recently returned to Norway after three years at Berkeley, shares our impressions. Like many other young Norwegians, he has benefitted greatly from attending an American university. After his studies, he spent two weeks visiting various parts of the United States, where he received a lasting impression not only of the diversity of a great nation, but also of the warm hospitality of the American people. He was deeply impressed by the way your country deals with the opportunities and challenges posed by a multicultural society.

The Crown Prince is now a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Our two countries agree on the importance of strengthening the United Nations in order to improve its ability to respond to the many challenges of the new millennium, preventing conflicts, combating poverty, promoting human rights. These are some of the main challenges at the top of our common global agenda for the next century.

Mr. President, you have throughout your presidency recognized that America's well-being depends on its ability to cooperate with its friends and allies. Your vision has been to bring America closer to the rest of the world. We welcome this and look forward to having the United States as an active and reliable partner in the future as well.

In his inaugural address in 1961, President John F. Kennedy said, "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate." This reflects the basic attitudes which has brought millions of people, not least in Europe, political freedom and economic prosperity.

At dinner tonight we will join other leaders in commemorating Yitzak Rabin, a fearless negotiator. Without your personal commitment to the peace process in the Middle East, we all know that this part of the world would have looked different today. Nobody who has seen photographs of President Arafat and Prime Minister Rabin on the steps of the White House can doubt that the Middle East has changed during your presidency.

Oslo has played a part in this process. Seeing you here in Oslo today gives us hope that soon another chapter will be written in the story of peace in the Middle East.

Let me close by proposing a toast to you, Mr. President: To the United States and to the continuation of the excellent relations between our two countries.

(A toast is offered.) (The American National Anthem is played.)

THE PRESIDENT: I must say, Your Majesty, that is a much more elegant fanfare than I normally get before I speak. (Laughter.) Thank you for hosting me and all of our American company here. To both of you, we are honored to be in your presence. And I am deeply honored to be the first sitting American President to visit your wonderful country.

The United States and Norway are allies and friends. Our friendship is rooted, of course, in our common shared interests and our common shared values; also, a remarkable textured, shared history. Vikings from these shores were among the first Europeans to walk the shores of North America. Since July 4th, 1825, when the first Norwegian ship sailed for the United States, millions of Norwegians seeking freedom and opportunity have, as His Majesty has noted, contributed immensely to our society.

I think it's worth noting a few of them, for their descendants include many luminaries from our past and present: National leaders from Congressman Sabo's home state, like Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey. Great jurists like the late Chief Justice Earl Warren. Great thinkers like Thorstein Veblen, giants of entertainment like Jimmy Cagney, sports heroes like Knute Rockne and, of course, Secretary Albright's predecessor, Warren Christopher.

Today, there are almost as many people, perhaps even more people of Norwegian descent in the United States than in Norway. So, most of all, I suppose I should be here, simply thanking you for the precious gift of your people.

Our two nations have also shared the history of some of the darkest days of this century when the royal family, as the King has said, spent the years of the war living in the United States, including several weeks in the White House. I must say one of the most interesting experiences I have had as President in my entire tenure was having the opportunity to welcome you back to the White House, where you were as a small boy. I hope someday someone will welcome me back in that fashion -- (laughter) -- but I won't have quite the memories that you do.

President Roosevelt's last formal statement, just three days before his death, was a statement in praise of the people of Norway and the people of Denmark for their courage during the Occupation. The King said that he remembered standing behind President Roosevelt during his fourth inauguration. At the time, the war was still going on. The President was not feeling well, and so, at the insistence of his advisors, he agreed to be inaugurated actually inside the White House. It is the only time in the entire history of our country that a President was inaugurated in the White House. Lucky enough for us, it enabled a young man to stand behind him, and to carry a memory for more than half a century.

In President Roosevelt's fourth inaugural address, he summed up the lessons learned from the war. He said this: "We have learned that we cannot live alone at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We have learned that, to be citizens of the world, we have learned to be members of the human community. We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, the only way to have a friend is to be one."

Those words still ring true today -- in the United States, in Norway, in the Middle East. Let us do all we can to remind all those in positions of influence, within our countries and beyond our borders, that we share a common destiny, and the only way to have a friend is to be one.

We also share an important history in the recent past, that I would be remiss if I did not comment upon briefly. In this decade, America and Norway have stood side by side as allies and friends to fight ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, to prevent the spread of dangerous weapons, to promote human rights, and of course, to build peace in the Middle East. That is our focus this week. And again I thank our Norwegian hosts for all they have done to make the talks that we will have today and tomorrow possible.

Once, Franklin Roosevelt said that any nation seeking to resist tyranny and build democracy need only, and I quote, "look to Norway." It remains just as true today. Free people still look to Norway, and will always do so.

Your Majesty, I am grateful for all you have done to keep our friendship strong, to prepare our kindred nations for a new century and a new millennium -- when we will have some more shared history based on our shared values.

I ask all of you now to join me in a toast to King Harald, to the Queen, to the people of Norway, and to our wonderful alliance.

(A toast is offered.)

END 1:45 P.M. (L)


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