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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks at a Ceremony Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty

1989-04-04

Your Excellencies and fellow citizens, 40 years ago today, some of the most accomplished and farsighted statesmen of their or any other generation -- men such as Robert Schuman and Lester Pearson, Paul-Henri Spaak, Dean Acheson, Ernest Bevin -- gathered here in Washington under the watchful eye of Harry Truman to take an historic step. They signed a solemn declaration of collective security, a treaty to safeguard the peace and the prosperity of the community of free nations. That treaty proved to be the foundation of the most successful alliance in modern history. And gathered here today are many distinguished Americans who as officials or Members of Congress or private citizens have served the Atlantic community and the ideals that it embodies; and we pay tribute to them.

The North Atlantic Treaty at its signing symbolized a bold commitment to safeguard against new dangers the very freedoms for which we had fought so hard only a few years earlier. Equally, it embodied the shared values of our civilization, values which have given form to many other historic political milestones of the postwar period, from the U.N. Charter to the Helsinki process. And while planting firmly the banner of freedom, the North Atlantic Treaty, because of the strength it mobilized, became the basis of the longest peace -- matched by an unparalleled prosperity -- that Europe has known. By any standard, NATO has been a resounding success. Like any human institution, it is continually tested and challenged; but we've held together.

And next month, I'll travel to Europe to attend the NATO summit in Brussels, as well as to visit allied leaders in Rome, Bonn, and London. This will be an historic occasion not only for the anniversary it commemorates but also for the hopeful changes it can mark, changes made possible by the strength and solidarity of the Atlantic alliance.

Today in a changing world, our alliance not only keeps the peace and freedom of the Atlantic world, it has made possible the common effort to build a more constructive relationship with the East. Europe is entering a period of unprecedented change and enormous hope. Without our moral and political unity over four decades, this would never be happening.

Our values of freedom and democracy turn out to be the most powerful political force around the world today, most particularly in Europe. On this anniversary, I join my fellow Americans and citizens of the 15 other allied countries in saluting what has been accomplished. Equally, we salute a bright future and recommit ourselves to the shared vision of a Europe undivided in which security and peace are assured for all the nations of the continent on the basis of freedom, true democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, fulfilling the dream and vision of 40 years ago.

And now I would like to invite the NATO Ambassadors to come forward for a group photo, and then I hope we'll all have a chance to say hello. Please?

Note: The President spoke at 11:04 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

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