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Public Papers - 1989 - July

Remarks to Residents of Leiden, The Netherlands

1989-07-17

Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Your Majesty and Your Royal Highness, Barbara and I thank you and the people of the Netherlands for the warm welcome that has been given to us. I'm not sure about some of those signs I saw coming in. It reminded me of my own university, however.

I'm glad to be back with my cousins, because we fondly remember Aunt Abigail back there those many years ago. [Laughter] And I want to first thank Mr. DeWolff and that magnificent orchestra and the choir from here, with that superb solo by Ms. Zedelius -- an outstanding performance. And Mayor Goekoop, thank you so much for that medallion, which we will treasure forever.

The Netherlands is an old friend, an honored ally of the United States. And the friendship between our nations is older than the American Constitution, and the United Provinces were one of the models that our founders looked to in creating a nation from 13 sovereign States.

And it's a pleasure to visit Leiden, a city whose very name has symbolized for centuries Dutch determination and the struggle for freedom against the forces of occupation. And for Americans, too, Leiden is a special city, a place where we trace our origins. So many of the individuals who shaped the modern world walked the cobbled streets of Leiden. And it was here that Hugo de Groot, known to the world as Grotius, the father of modern international law, studied in the Nation that is today the home of the International Court of Justice. And it was here that Rembrandt lived and worked and created a world of beauty that moves us still today. And it was here to Leiden that the Pilgrims came to escape persecution -- to live, work, and worship in peace. In the shadow of Pieterskerk, they found the freedom to witness God openly and without fear. And here, under the ancient stones of the Pieterskerk, the body of John Robinson, the Pilgrims' spiritual leader, was laid to rest.

And it was from this place the Pilgrims set their course for a New World. In their search for liberty, they took with them lessons learned here of freedom and tolerance. And the Pilgrims faced a dangerous passage; but carried on the winds of hope, they arrived. And on the rocky coast of New England, at the edge of a wild and unsettled continent, they planted the seeds of a New World, a world that became America.

And today, as when the Pilgrims left this city, a new world lies within our reach. Our time is a time of great hope and a time of enormous challenges. The new world we seek is shaped by an idea, an idea of universal appeal and undeniable force, and that idea is democracy. The power of the democratic idea is evident everywhere -- in the halls of government, in the hearts of people around the world. In the words of Victor Hugo: ``No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.'' And, ladies and gentlemen, freedom's time has come.

We, the people of the United States and the people of the Netherlands, are fortunate. The freedoms that others are struggling for are freedoms that we enjoy. But freedom never comes without struggle, and no struggle is without sacrifice. Americans and the Dutch both know that the cost of freedom is high. And that's why both of our nations are partners in an alliance of free nations that spans the ocean that the Pilgrims crossed. Our alliance, the NATO alliance, connects two continents, unites a hemisphere. But what connects us isn't merely a fact of geography. Ours is an alliance forged on common values, rooted in a shared history and heritage. It's a common kinship and culture, as well.

We are part of the commonwealth of free nations. Almost 2 months ago, I came to Europe to celebrate the fruits of our alliance: four decades of peace, prosperity, and freedom. At the time of NATO's founding, amid the airlift to besieged Berlin, few would have predicted a peace so strong and lasting. Here in the Netherlands and elsewhere, some people expected war to come again within their lifetimes. Instead, the NATO era has brought the longest period of peace that Europe has known in the modern age. And let me assure you, Americans know that to keep the peace in Europe is to keep the peace for America.

And today the Atlantic alliance, formed to contain the threat of Soviet expansionism, is creating new opportunities to ease tensions, to build a new world, to build an enduring peace. And thanks to NATO's strength and unity, we now have the opportunity to move beyond containment -- to integrate the Soviet Union into the community of nations. Thanks to NATO's steadiness of purpose and its commitment to maintain strong deterrent forces, the way is now open to real reductions in the level of arms that has long cast a shadow over this continent, the most heavily militarized on Earth.

And seizing these opportunities, reaching that new world, depends on the unity and strength of the entire alliance, not on the actions of one nation alone. The revival of the Western European Union, in which the Netherlands played a vital role; the growing cooperation on security issues between West Germany and France; British and French resolve to modernize their own nuclear forces -- each of these developments is a sign that Europe sees the wisdom of sustaining the collective strength that has kept the peace.

The lesson of our postwar experience is this: Strength has kept us safe and has created opportunities for change. And from these opportunities, we can create a new era of enduring peace. Let me say clearly: A stronger Europe, a more united Europe, is good for my country; it's good for the United States of America. And it's a development we welcome, a natural evolution within our alliance, the product of true partnership 40 years in the making.

This trend toward closer cooperation isn't limited to collective security alone. Around the world, countries are now recognizing that no nation -- no nation -- can prosper in economic isolation. And that's why we look forward to the single European market and a more integrated European Community. The world's major industrial democracies must work to maintain an open trading system to preserve sustained economic growth.

And our progress at this recently concluded economic summit in Paris brought us closer to a more coordinated and common approach across a wide spectrum of critical global issues. The key is concerted action: bringing the collective strength of the West to bear on our common concerns.

Concerns like the environment -- global warming, acid rain, and pollution of the world's oceans: these are problems that know no borders, that no line on a map has the power to stop. And pollution crosses continents and oceans, and it's time for nations to join forces in common defense of our environment. The United States of America will do its part. A little over a month ago, in the United States, I announced a series of sweeping changes to our Clean Air Act, changes meant to ensure that every American, in the space of one generation, will breathe clean air. And shortly after I get back to the United States, after I return home, we will send our clean air legislation to Congress. And last week in Poland and Hungary, I announced initiatives to work with those two countries to combat their pollution problems. And the next step is clear: We must work together, take concerted action to combat this common problem -- clean up our environment for ourselves and for our children.

And the summit underscored the fact that it's time we take the next step in solving the debt problem to encourage conditions for global growth that will benefit the industrialized nations and the developing world alike. We must make progress on this because it's more than a matter of economic development. Democracy is at stake. Freedom can nourish the barren soil of poverty, just as the Pilgrims landed upon a desolate rock and laid the foundations of the freedom and prosperity that we know today. Economic and democratic development go hand in hand. And the steps we've taken towards a common strategy on debt will sustain a favorable climate for growth and for the flourishing of democracy in the developing world.

And there's Eastern Europe. Let me explain the approach that I take towards reform in Eastern Europe. We will never compromise our principles. We will always speak out for freedom, but we understand as well how vital a carefully calibrated approach is in this time of dynamic change. The Soviet Union has nothing -- nothing -- to fear from the reforms that are now unfolding in some of the nations of Eastern Europe. We support reform in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union, and we're seeing dramatic changes. General Secretary Gorbachev's recent letter 2 days ago to the economic summit is only the latest example of the Soviets moving in our direction, coming our way. I've said it many times -- that I want to see perestroika succeed. I want to see the Soviet Union chart a course that brings itself into the community of nations.

And my visits these last 2 months demonstrate how closely the United States is linked to Europe. For half a century, America has been deeply involved in the future of this continent. And U.S. involvement will be a strategic fact the next century, as it has been for this one. We will play a constructive role in Eastern Europe's economic development, in the development of political pluralism, and in creating an international climate in which reform can succeed. And that is why America's relations with the Soviet Union are so important. Improved relations with the U.S.S.R. reduce pressure on the nations of Eastern Europe, especially those on the cutting edge of reform.

The new world we seek is a commonwealth of free nations working in concert, a world where more and more nations enter a widening circle of freedom. In the pulpit here at the Pieterskerk, 1 year after peace was restored in Europe, Winston Churchill spoke to the people of Leiden. The allies had triumphed over tyranny. The occupation was over. After 6 years of war and devastation, Churchill said: ``The great wheel has swung full circle.'' And Europe then stood at the threshold of a new era, an era whose hope Churchill expressed in a single, simple phrase: ``Let freedom reign.''

And we all know what followed. Half of Europe entered that new era, and half of Europe found its path blocked, walled off by barriers of brick and barbed wire. The half of Europe that was free dug out from the rubble, recovered from the war, and laid the foundations of free government and free enterprise that brought unparalleled prosperity and a life in peace and freedom. And the other Europe, the Europe behind the wall, endured four decades of privation and hardship and persecution and fear.

And today that other Europe is changing. The great wheel is moving once more. And our time, the exciting time in which we live, is a time of new hope -- the hope that all of Europe can now know the freedom that the Netherlands has known, that America has known, and that the West has known. Our hope is that the unnatural division of Europe will now come to an end, that the Europe behind the wall will join its neighbors to the West, prosperous and free.

Poland and Hungary are on the cutting edge; they're on the forefront of this reform. And they've traveled far these past 12 months, farther than any of us once would have thought possible. In Warsaw, I spoke to the new Polish Parliament that includes 100 new freely elected Senators, elected to office in Eastern Europe's first truly free election in the postwar era. And in Hungary, I addressed the students and faculty of Karl Marx University, a university where the lessons of the free market are replacing the old teachings of ``Das Kapital.'' At the shipyards of Gdansk and at the statue of the great Hungarian hero Kossuth, tens of thousands of people -- literally tens of thousands filled the streets -- new voices, full of new hope. And theirs were the faces of pilgrims on a journey, fixed on the horizon, on the new world coming into view.

And they know, as we do, that ultimately, whatever the odds, freedom will succeed. It's a lesson the world has learned several times this century, a lesson that you know so well, that the Dutch know so well. The Netherlands will never -- I was talking at this lunch today with your able Prime Minister [Ruud Lubbers] -- the Netherlands will never forget the nightmare of occupation. Some of you here today suffered through those long years.

And even then freedom endured. Pieterskerk -- behind these walls, above the rafters -- resistance fighters, university students took refuge from the forces of occupation and found safe haven in this church. Daily acts of heroism -- the church sexton who brought them food, the neighborhood grocer who collected extra ration stamps -- kept them alive, kept the spirit of dignity and human decency alive throughout the Netherlands dark night.

And why? Why would people endanger themselves to save others? They did it for the simplest, most human of reasons. In the words of Jan Campert, poet of the Dutch resistance, they acted because ``the heart could not do otherwise.'' Freedom can never be extinguished -- not then, not now. Even in the Europe behind the wall, the dream of freedom for all Europe has never died. It's alive today in Warsaw and Gdansk, in Budapest and, yes, across the Soviet Union.

So, the challenge that we face is a very clear one. We must work together toward the day when all of Europe, East and West, is free of discord, free of division; a day when people in every city and every town across this continent knows the freedoms that we enjoy. And here in Leiden, where the Pilgrims dreamed their New World, let us pledge our effort to create a new world in Europe, whole and free, a new world now within our reach.

Once again, thank you, God bless the Netherlands, God bless the United States of America and the friends of freedom everywhere in the world. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 3:46 p.m. at the Pieterskerk. He was introduced by Cornelis H. Goekoop, mayor of Leiden. In his remarks, the President referred to Queen Beatrix; Prince Claus; Abigail Jenney, an ancestor of the President who was born in Leiden; Charles DeWolff, conductor of Amsterdam's Kamer Orkest; and Maria Zedelius, choir soloist.

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