June 2, 1984
My fellow Americans:
Top o' the mornin' to you. I'm speaking from a small town named Cong in western Ireland, first stop on a 10-day trip that will also take Nancy and me to France and England.
We're in an area of spectacular beauty overlooking a large lake filled with islands, bays, and coves. And those of you who, like me, can claim the good fortune of Irish roots, may appreciate the tug I felt in my heart yesterday when we saw the Emerald Isle from Air Force One. I thought of words from a poem about Ireland:
A place as kind as it is green,
The greenest place I've every seen.
I told our welcoming hosts that to stand with them on the soil of my ancestors was, for this great-grandson of Ireland, a very special moment. It was a moment of joy.
Earlier today we were in Galway, a coastal city celebrating its 500th anniversary. Legend has it Columbus prayed at a church there on his way to the New World. For a thousand years, Ireland was considered the western edge of civilization and a place that continued to revere learning during a time of darkness on the continent of Europe.
That reverence earned Ireland its reputation as the Island of Saints and Scholars. I was pleased to address representatives of University College in Galway to speak to them of Ireland's many contributions to America and to give thanks for those great, great forces of faith and love for liberty and justice that bind our people.
The president of that institution, Dr. O'hEocha, also chaired a group called the New Ireland Forum, which has sought to foster a spirit of tolerance and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, so the spiral of violence that has cast so many innocent lives there -- or cost so many, I should say, can be finally ended.
Ireland is a beautiful, proud, and independent land with a young and talented population. But they have an employment problem. By the strength of our economy, and by the presence of some 300 U.S. firms here, Americans can and will help our Irish cousins create jobs and greater opportunities. And, of course, what helps them will help us, too.
Tomorrow, Nancy and I will travel to Ballyporeen for a nostalgic visit to the original home of the Reagan clan. On Monday, we'll be in Dublin, where I'll have the honor of addressing a joint session of the Irish Parliament, as John Kennedy did here 21 years ago.
When we leave Ireland, we'll be participating in two events that mark America's determination to help build a safer, more prosperous world.
On June 6th, I'll join former U.S. Army Rangers at the historic battlefield of Pointe du Hoc and, later, President Mitterrand and other American veterans at Omaha Beach and Utah Beach on the Normandy coast of France. Together we'll commemorate the 40th anniversary of D-day, the great Allied invasion that set Europe on the course toward liberty, democracy, and peace.
That great battle and the war it helped bring to an end mark the beginning of nearly 40 years of peace in Europe -- a peace preserved not by good will alone, but by the strength and moral courage of the NATO alliance. On June 6th I will reaffirm America's faithful commitment to NATO. If NATO remains strong and unified, Europe and America will remain free. If NATO can continue to deter war, Europe and America can continue to enjoy peace -- 40 more years of peace.
And let me make one thing very plain: A strong NATO is no threat to the Soviet Union. NATO is the world's greatest peace movement. It never threatens; it defends. And we will continue trying to promote a better dialog with the Soviet Union. The Soviets could gain much by helping us make the world safer, particularly through arms reductions. That would free them to devote more resources to their people and economy.
Growth and prosperity will occupy our attention when we return to London for the annual economic summit of the major industrialized countries. And we'll be marking another important anniversary: 50 years ago, America's leaders had the vision to enact legislation known as the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1934. It helped bring an end to a terrible era of protectionism that nearly destroyed the world's economies.
We'll talk about how best to maintain the recent progress that has lifted hopes for a worldwide recovery for our common prosperity. You can be proud that the strength of the United States economy has led the way. I believe continued progress lies with freer trade and more open markets. Less protectionism will mean more progress, more growth, more jobs, a bigger slice of the pie for everyone.
As we meet in Normandy and London, we'll have much to be thankful for, much to be optimistic about, but still much to do.
Till next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at 5:06 p.m. from Ashford Castle in Cong, County Mayo, Ireland.