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Public Papers - 1989 - July

Remarks Upon Returning From the Trip to Europe


Well, thank you for this warm welcome home. Barbara and I are delighted to be back, and we thank you for this warm welcome back. And I know you've seen some of what we experienced during this trip, but let me just share with you now some of the memorable moments of the last 10 days that will certainly stay in my mind: the open arms of the people of Poland; American flags waving in the square at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk; the faces of the people who lined the streets, greeting us with such joy; the thousands who endured a driving downpour in Budapest to welcome us to Hungary; the students I spoke to there, the hope of Hungary's future; and images we won't forget.

The warmth Barbara and I felt is a reflection of the warmth the people of Poland and Hungary feel for America and for our ideals. And then there was Paris, celebrating the bicentennial of the revolution that brought forth the Rights of Man. And how satisfying it was to witness the unity of purpose that emerged from the summit, ranging from East-West relations to the environment. And finally, the Netherlands and that church at Leiden, spiritual home of the Pilgrim Fathers and American ideals.

But of all these special moments, I want to share one with you that is truly special in its message. It's a story told by a Polish woman at a luncheon meeting that I hosted in Warsaw. Around the table sat members of Poland's Communist Party and members of Solidarity -- in some cases, men and women who had been imprisoned on the party's orders not so long ago and who were now elected members of the Polish Parliament. And it was remarkable proof of how far Poland has come; but in Poland, and in Hungary as well, progress hasn't come without heroic efforts -- a heroism that comes from deep within the heart. And this woman, who'd worked at personal risk for the release of many who had been jailed, was asked: How is it possible, after such a short time, to break bread with the men who ordered those imprisonments? Why the absence of bitterness? And she said: ``Our joy at what is now happening is more powerful than memory.'' And those are the words of someone who means to build a better future -- the desire to move forward towards a better life, a life of freedom. It's a source of tremendous strength.

It's the strength that enabled the Government and Solidarity to sit down at the roundtable to negotiate new political progress for Poland, the strength that enabled Lech Walesa [Solidarity leader] and General Jaruzelski [Chairman of the Council of State] to sit side by side at the opening of the new Polish Parliament. And it's a strength that in Hungary is enabling the Government and an emerging opposition to find a common ground in reform, to sit together in writing a new constitution and in planning truly free elections. And we must not forget that it was the strength and cohesion of our Western alliance that has helped make these dramatic changes possible.

Everywhere -- in Warsaw, Gdansk, and Budapest, among the leaders of the summit nations in Paris, and then in the Netherlands -- I found an enormous amount of excitement, excitement at the times in which we are living and the possibilities they offer: the chance we have in our lifetimes to move beyond containment, to end the division of Europe, to make that continent truly whole and free. Everywhere people seem to sense that we live at a moment when positive change is possible.

And as I said yesterday in the Dutch city of Leiden, history's great wheel is turning once again. And just as the wind of hope carried the Pilgrims to a New World, we, too, now find a new world within our reach, a world where the yearnings for freedom overcomes discord and confrontation; where freedom and democracy flourish for others, as they have for this great country of ours.

Thank you for this welcome home. It is good to be back. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:52 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House.

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