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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks on Signing the German-American Day Proclamation


Well, a thousand apologies for keeping you waiting. But you can't say we didn't provide you with a little good music. And welcome to the White House. A special welcome to Dr. Suessmuth and Ms. Geiger and the other Members of the German Parliament that are here today.

You know, we meet as we're a part of a pivotal moment in history. The countries of Eastern Europe are in ferment, as the struggle to find freedom has entered a new stage with hopes higher than ever before. And a non-Communist government has been formed in Poland. Totalitarian ideology is being discarded in Hungary. And as I said in Hamtramck, in Warsaw and Gdansk, and in Budapest, America stands with the forces of change. We pledged our moral and our material support.

The Polish Government, facing the prospect of painful adjustments as it initiates its drastic economic reforms, last week requested billion in immediate aid from the West. And therefore, yesterday I asked Congress to provide 0 million in entirely new assistance, when Poland signs an IMF [International Monetary Fund] agreement, to do our part in fully meeting this request. I'm also sending a Presidential mission to Poland to consult with the Poles on the best use of this and other assistance.

We are riveted and I am moved by the tens of thousands of East Germans sacrificing all that they own, leaving everything behind, to find their way to a West that offers the promise of freedom and opportunity. And I read today of thousands of people, people who have waited for 10 years to buy a car and just left them on the street, handing the keys to whoever wanted them, so they could -- taking with them only the possessions they could carry -- and climbed over an embassy fence to wait for a freedom train.

As we celebrate German-American Day today, I want to praise the actions of the Federal Republic in rising to the challenge presented by these events, the enormous challenge. And I also look forward to the day that Germans will not have to climb fences, freeze in embassy courtyards, or dodge bullets in order to enjoy the fruits of a free society.

I don't need to tell you what an important role the whole entire German-American community has played in the United States over the past 200 years -- individually, collectively. German-Americans are a vital part of this country's heritage. And as you know, in the early 1980's we recognized the need to strengthen contacts between Germany and the United States. And since that time our countries have worked together to emphasize shared values and responsibilities. Our own U.S. Information Agency has taken the lead on many of these initiatives. USIA played an important role in the celebration of Germany's tricentennial in 1983, which I was fortunate enough to attend. And most recently, USIA assisted in the establishment of the German-American Friendship Garden, which I understand you all are celebrating this afternoon.

And therefore, I am pleased to announce today that our new, very capable Director of USIA, my friend Bruce Gelb, will assume the role of U.S. coordinator of German-American contact initiatives. He stands ready and willing to work with you to bring together young German and American leaders -- something that I know Chancellor Kohl is very much interested in -- in government, in business, in journalism, and the arts -- bring them together to broaden perspectives, strengthen friendships, and increase understanding between our two countries.

And now I am honored to sign this proclamation appropriately honoring the German-American community.

Note: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Rita Suessmuth, President of the West German Parliament, and Michaela Geiger, Member of Parliament and chairwoman of the visiting parliamentary delegation. The proclamation is listed in Appendix E at the end of this volume.

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