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Public Papers - 1989 - May

Remarks to the American Embassy Employees and Their Families in Rome


Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and thank all of you for that warm Memorial Day weekend welcome. First, to Ambassador Rabb and Ruth, let me simply add our profound thanks for a job well done. I'll tell you, you stay around Max for about 24 hours, and that exhausting energy level is something. And it all has been steered into improving relations -- this energy of his -- improving relations between Italy and the United States.

And yesterday, when I met with the Italian leaders, I told them I don't believe this bilateral relationship has ever been stronger. And I think a large bit of the credit for that goes to our able Ambassador and his wife. And then I'd have to add to every single one of you that works here in the United States Embassy: Thank you for a job superbly done!

I will say just a word about our new Ambassador, Pete Secchia, a good friend of both the Secretary's and mine. He'll do a good job -- energetic. He knows what he doesn't know. He knows he's going to have to learn a lot from the staff here, but you're going to like him, and I'm convinced the Italians will, as well. I believe the Senate will act promptly on that nomination. And he and his Joan -- that Jim Baker and I know very well -- will be along; but what remarkably big shoes they have to fill.

Thanks, in large measure, to your efforts -- I agree with Max -- this visit has gone well. I saw Barbara Watson, who is the admin officer of the United States Embassy. And I looked at her very carefully before I went over and shook hands. And I wanted to see if she looked in a high state of irritation -- [laughter] -- or if she looked perfectly normal. And I would say this -- I saw her -- it wasn't that she looked on edge at all. [Laughter] But I told her that we would leave on time, and she smiled from ear to ear and was very gracious. [Laughter] And I say all that because I have been on the receiving end -- when I served in China -- the receiving end of a visit from a President of the United States, and I know what it's like: a pluperfect pain. [Laughter]

No, she was very pleasant about it. And it gives me the occasion to thank all of you -- the admin and the security and the political side of the Embassy and commercial or military, whatever -- for the superb cooperation. Our people tell me they've never seen a more cooperative effort, and I think it has shown through in the way this visit has gone. And I might say, parenthetically, my thanks to the members of the U.S. Navy for providing us that wonderful music here on this very celebratory day.

Now, we've had good talks here -- substantive talks with President Cossiga and then, of course, with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister. We had a gala evening last night and then -- I agree with the objective side of what Max said about the ceremony at Nettuno. Oh, I'm sure most of you all have been there. And if you haven't, you've got to see it. You've got to see that tribute to those who gave their lives fighting for our country, fighting for freedom. It was very, very moving for Barbara and me. And I expect any American who goes and takes a look at that beautiful cemetery will have that with them for the rest of their lives. And so, I want to thank those who handle that end of our visit, those who serve to keep up that beautiful memorial to our fallen brothers.

I know, as I say, that this has been a complicated event. And now, as you know, we go on from here to NATO, to the meeting there that is very, very important for the alliance. I happen to believe this alliance has never been stronger. And I salute my immediate predecessor, President Reagan, for his role in guaranteeing the strength of the alliance.

So, we go there in a time of great optimism, a time when our values, worldwide, are winning -- the values of freedom and democracy and all the things that we believe in and things these kids learn about in school every single day and get from their families. So, it's an optimistic time for the alliance. And it's a great time for the United States of America.

I look forward to that part of it. But there was something more than symbolic about Italy being my first stop, because I think it signals to the Italian people how important we view not only their participation in NATO and their willingness to undertake complicated NATO assignments but the strength of our bilateral relationship that so many of you have worked many years to encourage and to strengthen. So, I'm grateful again for that. And please make no mistake: When we chose Italy, we did it very, very carefully. And we came here to symbolize exactly this: the strength of the friendship between our two peoples.

Now, thank you all very much. What I really want to do -- and I don't know that we can talk these kids into it -- but what I really want to do is see if we can get the kids -- and to be a kid, you've got to be -- [laughter] -- you guys are out -- you've got to be, what, about 15, to come so we can have a group picture taken up here. And if anybody feels offended, we've got to do that. But in the meantime, let me end this way -- because this is a marvelous Memorial Day weekend -- and let me simply say thank you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:30 p.m. at the U.S. Ambassador's residence. He was introduced by Secretary of State James A. Baker III. In his opening remarks, the President referred to Ambassador Maxwell M. Rabb, Mrs. Ruth Rabb, and Ambassador-designate Peter F. Secchia. Following his remarks, the President traveled to Brussels.

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