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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks to the Crew and Guests on the U.S.S. Forrestal in Malta


Hello, fellow Navy men, and hello to the sons of the U.S.S. Forrestal. I'm delighted to be here. And to those others that are visiting here from other ships in the battle group. And to Captain Thomassy -- thank you, sir, for that kind introduction. Admiral Howe and Vice Admiral Williams, Rear Admiral ``Sweet Pea'' Allen, friends. You guys be seated, please. No chairs? Then keep standing -- never mind. [Laughter]

I'm pleased to be here. Just shows how far one will go in the world -- I'll leave no place unexplored in my quest to catch a fish. [Laughter] These remarks will be relatively brief. I say that because I know your jobs -- having seen these operations -- don't leave too much room for speeches, after all. Also on a ship you can't stand still for long. Anything that doesn't move gets painted, as I remember it. [Laughter] I can tell fresh paint when I've seen it, but thanks for the welcome, anyway.

I know, too, that some of you have meals to eat. Frankly, I'd like to get Chairman Gorbachev to get an idea of what U.S. Navy food is like. [Laughter] Maybe not -- [laughter] -- what I'm trying to do is ease tensions. [Laughter]

No, we had a great meal down there. But I know -- I'll be brief because I know there are other priorities, like getting ready, as America is, for a certain football event next Saturday. Just this morning I was talking with a ``BB stacker.'' And I told him I hope my meeting with Chairman Gorbachev means that fierce adversaries will never again clash on the field of battle. He said: ``You mean you're going to negotiate an end to the Army-Navy game?'' [Laughter]

Well, I'm not. And I know that next Saturday Americans will be rooting for both sides, just like nearly half a century ago, in this very part of the Mediterranean, young sailors like yourselves were taking sides on different circumstances. For on Malta itself, as a brave people endured savage attack, they were aided by the Armed Forces of America and her allies, daring greatly, fighting valiantly, so that freedom could prevail. And for more than two centuries now, the Navy has been a defender of that freedom, proclaiming the inevitability of democracy, living on ``the tip of the spear.'' Think back: Nimitz and Halsey, Commodore Perry, battles like Midway and Leyte Gulf and the battle of the Philippine Sea, and of America's enlisted men and women who expressed our deepest values and our character as a people.

I met with Mr. Akhromeyev of the Soviet Union, the former Defense Minister in charge of all the military. And the thing he commented on was the quality and the ability of the enlisted men and women in the service of the United States, particularly in the Navy, because he had an opportunity to go out and visit on one of the ships.

I'm a Navy man -- or was. And I confess that certain things haven't changed since I joined up as a seaman second class. I assume that maids still come into the quarters, make your beds, and leave a mint on the pillow. [Laughter] And I know you have ``gator,'' ``snipes,'' and ``grapes.'' You know, I love this. Let's hear it from the ``grapes.'' Well, there are not many of them around. [Applause] You know, I love this navy jargon. I'm sometimes tempted to use it there at the White House. It's just that some of the Congressmen might be a little leery if I asked them to join me for ``mid'rats.''

And then there's the sailors' zest for off-duty hours. That, too, endures. I hear by the grapevine that you missed a few days of liberty sitting off the coast of France in bad weather. And far be it from me to criticize the exuberance that you showed when you finally hit town. [Laughter] Don't worry, I can repair and be sure that our good relations with France are restored again. [Laughter]

Some things haven't changed. It's true that my generation was charged with winning a war and yours is charged with preserving a peace, but both want to protect freedom -- and that hasn't changed. Nor has the knowledge that real peace -- the peace which lasts -- is not an accident. Lasting peace takes planning and patience and personal sacrifice. And it takes a partnership with our allies, who are resolute in the defense of liberty. Lasting peace stems from strength that is moral and intellectual, economic and military; and from nations who use that strength to make fragile peace strong, make temporary peace permanent. Those lessons helped our generation win World War II; and today they bring me, and I believe Chairman Gorbachev, too, to our 2 days of talks -- a meeting for your generation and all the generations to come.

There's a painting in the White House, upstairs in the little office I have there. It portrays the decency and humanity of one of our greatest leaders. I've often said that Abraham Lincoln is one of my favorite Presidents, and I suppose virtually every American feels that way. This painting shows why. It pictures Lincoln with two generals and an admiral meeting on a boat near the end of a war that pitted brother against brother. Outside, in this picture, the battle rages. And yet what we see in the distance is a rainbow -- symbol of hope, of the passing of the storm. The painting's name? ``The Peacemakers.''

For me, and I think for Barbara, too, this painting is a constant reassurance that the cause of peace will triumph and that ours can be a future free of both tyranny and fear. Our fellow democracies share our hope for such a future. We want the Soviet Union opposed -- we've been adversaries; now we want the Soviet Union to join us in building that kind of future. And that's why I'm meeting, starting tomorrow, with Chairman Gorbachev. For the times are on the side of peace. And there are important reasons why that's true.

One of them is that 40 years ago the NATO alliance was formed in the hope that freedom would one day belong to the millions in Europe still yearning for freedom. Because NATO remained vigilant, strong, and united, this meeting is taking place.

And the alliance has been strengthened by America's enduring commitment to its protection. America has been, and remains, a shining champion of liberty. And because of that, this meeting is taking place.

And finally, this meeting is taking place because you have done your jobs; you have done your duty. And you and sailors like you all around the world have kept us strong and helped the horizons of democracy eclipse nation and race. Because of you, freedom is sweeping the globe. Our meeting here off Malta will last 2 days, but the freedoms that we seek must last for generations.

You know, with these recent and extraordinary changes that are taking place in Eastern Europe, I've been thinking of those freedoms. And at no time -- no time -- more than when that Berlin Wall began to crumble, began to open. And I remember how, shortly after that -- maybe you guys saw it on the television, the breaking of the wall -- right after that, Chancellor Kohl, Federal Republic of Germany, called me at the White House. And he asked me to thank each American and said that the remarkable change in Eastern Europe would not be occurring without the steadfast support of the United States.

Warm praise from a good friend, praise which belongs to you. And I recalled that conversation when last week the Foreign Minister of Germany, Mr. Genscher, came to see Secretary Baker and me. He visited the White House, and he praised our devotion to freedom. And he gave me a gift for the American people, and it's a piece of the Berlin Wall. And it's on my desk as a reminder of the power of freedom -- freedom to bring down the walls between people.

Fellow Navy men, I treasure that memento, and it shows what can happen when Americans stick to their principles. And we will not yield on those principles. And yet we all recognize a dynamic new Soviet leader willing, as Lincoln said, to think anew; and we want him to succeed because we do admire the people in the Soviet Union, and we know that ours is an historic opportunity to foster the peace.

So, I thought I would give to Forrestal a symbol of peace. It, too, comes from the Berlin wall and embodies this weekend spirit of cooperation. It shows how we can be peacemakers. And on behalf of each American, let me say it now belongs to you. I want to hand to your able captain to put on display here on this ship this little piece of the Berlin Wall as a symbol of the peace that we seek, the peace that you have helped make possible. Captain, I present this to you.

Let me close then with a moment that not many of you here are old enough to remember, but which wrote a glorious page in American history. It was on D - day, as Dwight Eisenhower addressed the sailors, soldiers, and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force. He said: ``You're about to embark upon a great crusade. The eyes of the world are on you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.'' And then Ike spoke this moving prayer: ``Let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.'' Like the men of D - day, you, too, are the hope of ``liberty-loving people everywhere,'' as the Navy has been in wartime and in peacetime, keeping our hearts aflight and our faith unyielding, sacrificing time away from your homes so that other Americans can sleep in theirs.

Today the walls of oppression are tumbling down because of what you and those who have gone before you have done to keep America's defenses up. And so, thank you for that, for writing still-new pages in the history of America and of her Navy. God bless you, God bless our ``great and noble undertaking,'' and God bless the United States of America. Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:45 p.m. in the hangar bay of the ship. In his remarks, he referred to Capt. Louis E. Thomassy, Jr., commanding officer of the ship; Adm. Jonathan T. Howe, commander in chief of U.S. naval forces in Europe; Vice Adm. James D. Williams, commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet; and Rear Adm. Richard C. Allen, commander of Carrier Group 6. Prior to his remarks, the President visited the flight deck, watched aircraft launch and recovery demonstrations, and had lunch with crewmembers in the enlisted men's mess. After his stay on the ship, the President went to the U.S.S. ``Belknap,'' his residence during his meetings with Soviet Chairman Gorbachev.

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