June 2, 1982
Who's tending the store? [Laughter]
Well, I think we've got everything packed, and Nancy's upstairs unplugging the toaster. [Laughter]
I guess we're ready to go. But in case anyone's wondering whether this trip is necessary, let me say a word or two about what we hope to accomplish.
I think one of the highest duties that goes with this office is to carry on the pursuit of peace and prosperity for our people. For more than three decades that pursuit has led to consultation and cooperation with our neighbors here on this continent, and with Japan, and with our friends and allies in the Western World, in Europe, those nations that share our democratic ideals.
Together we've weathered threats of aggression and internal disagreements, but we've maintained a sense of unity and a commitment to freedom, and we're still being tested, possibly more now than ever before. It's important, for that reason, to meet and renew our bond.
Now, I know there are some who question the value of the Alliance, who view it as cumbersome and at times unresponsive to the need for action. And there are those people still in our land who yearn for the isolationist shell. But because we've rejected those other courses back over the recent decades, there has been peace for almost 40 years on the Western front.
This administration's foreign policy began last year. It included the reestablishment of our American strength and the revitalization of our economy. We put the economic recovery program and the defense plan into place. This country never sought the leadership that was thrust upon us at the end of World War II, but what we have done, I think, in this last year, is reaffirm to our friends abroad and to possible adversaries that we accept that responsibility.
In meeting with the industrial democracies in Versailles, we should see more clearly where and how we mean to have a better economic future. That summit meeting is an opportunity to work for real, sustained, noninflationary growth after nearly a decade of stagnation, low productivity, and investment and energy vulnerability. We've been in the longest period of sustained inflation, worldwide inflation, in the history of the world. I intend to propose regular and closer consultation among us so we can together pursue economic policies that move in the same direction, first, to reduce inflation, and then to have greater monetary and fiscal discipline.
We must look for ways to strengthen the international trading system with more reliance on the free market. It's time that we take a stand against the increasing drift in so many parts of the world, and even here at home, toward protectionism.
There are other meetings besides Versailles -- I'll say -- [laughter] -- in London, in Rome, in Bonn, and in Berlin. I look forward to meeting with His Holiness the Pope in the Vatican. And the NATO meeting in Bonn -- there we'll have a chance to explain in detail our plans for engaging the Soviet Union in realistic arms reduction talks.
I know that you're aware that last November we took up the issue and proposed to the Soviet Union negotiations leading toward a zero level, the elimination of intermediate-range weapons, their SS - 20's and - 4's and - 5's in Europe, and the deploying of our Pershings and cruise missiles as a deterrent to those forces -- a total elimination of those forces -- and that, now, that treaty that we proposed is on the table in Geneva, and our teams are negotiating there. And then, a short time ago, in Eureka College, I spoke of START, Strategic Arms Reduction Talks, and the day before yesterday was able to announce that those talks will begin 27 days from now, on the 29th of June, in Geneva.
Now, if it is, as it appears to be, that we're destined to play a leadership role, then we shall do so with one purpose in mind -- to affirm and protect the fundamental values of our people and the people of those countries that are allied to us in this determination to be free. Our societies are a reflection of all that is good and decent in humankind.
Something will happen on this trip also in Bonn. There will be a ceremony, and Spain will become a member of NATO and the North Atlantic Alliance. I wonder if any of us have really thought about the significance of that. Over and above our welcome to another democracy to join us in that alliance, when have we ever seen or will we ever see a nation ask to join the Warsaw Pact? It just won't happen. For that matter, where else in the world can people take to the streets to demonstrate their opposition to nuclear warfare?
There's been near a decade of troubling events and uncertainty among the allies and ourselves, but today there is a regrowth of unity and purpose. And I hope that this trip will contribute to that and increase it.
So, that's my reason for going. And I can only tell you that I shall be more proud than I've ever been of anything to be there representing the United States, with an opportunity once again to express to all of them and to the world what it is we think we represent, what it is we want for all the people of the world.
And now, as the little girl said to me in the postscript to her letter, once, about what I should do after taking all her advice in the letter, about getting to the Oval Office, and get back to work, well, we're leaving, but -- get back to work. [Laughter]
No, incidentally, I couldn't leave here without just saying to all of you, now that we have you here and in a group, God bless you all, and thank you for all that you've been doing. I know that what we've been doing doesn't read well in the Washington Post or the New York Times, but believe me, it reads well in Peoria.
Thanks a lot. Goodby. See you later.
Note: The President spoke at 9:31 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. Following his remarks, he left from the South Lawn for Andrews Air Force Base, Md. From there he flew to Paris, France.