January 12, 1988

Well, reverend clergy, General Hittle, General Dawson, Charles Graham, and ladies and gentlemen: In the old days, I'm told, the Army and Navy Club often invited their neighbor, the President, to all their parties. I've also heard that Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland walked over for a toddy or two. Oh, for the good old days. [Laughter] If I'd known that the club was this beautiful, Nancy and I would have stopped by long ago, and we would even walk, if the Secret Service would let us.

Well, the word for today is: Congratulations! You've put together a beautiful building and an historic treasure. I'm amazed at your outstanding collection of art, particularly the De Welden sculptures. I've always wondered where old generals and admirals went when they "just faded away.'' And now I know.

But nothing is more important than keeping alive the gallant tradition of our armed services -- a tradition that adds up to a word not just for today but for all time: patriotism. As you know, I've visited our men and women in the armed services and their families all around the world -- from Camp Liberty Bell on the demilitarized zone in Korea to Tempelhof Air Force Base in West Berlin -- and the one thing that's always struck me the most about them is their dedication to country. They take a little bit of America with them every place they go, no matter how far, to make it more like home. And these men and women are willing to be away from this home that they love so that other countries may remain free. That's one of the great sacrifices they make for our country.

So, I've got a report to bring you from the front. I've talked to admirals and generals alike, on bases from Iceland to Guam, and they've told me stories about how their troops, U.S. troops, are the best trained, best equipped, and best educated troops around. To sum it up, what we have right now is the best darn group of young men and women in uniform that this nation has ever seen, and we're proud of them.

I was honored when you invited me to dedicate your new clubhouse, as the Army and Navy Club begins its second century. General Hittle assures me that I'm among friends. Then, I knew that already. No group of men and women has given more steadfast support to the Commander in Chief, no matter what his name was, no matter what party he represented. And I know I'll never forget the support that you've given me during some of my toughest hours as President. And so, I salute you not only for the help you've given me over the past 7 years but for the help your club has given my predecessors and will give my successors for generations to come.

Upstairs I couldn't help noticing the busts of President Eisenhower and President Truman, but when I saw that picture of General "Hap'' Arnold standing in front of a B - 17, I had to resist the urge to snap to attention. You know, General Arnold was my boss some 40 years ago, and he ran a tough Air Force. Just ask the fellows on the other side.

General Hittle told me, too, that Gary Cooper filmed many of the scenes of "The Billy Mitchell Court Martial'' right here at the club. But he says that the members wouldn't let the cameras in until after midnight, after the members had gone to bed. Well, I'm grateful that you didn't impose that kind of schedule on me. [Laughter] And I think Nancy would feel the same way.

In December of 1885, according to your records, after the founders signed the papers of incorporation, they retired to a warm room to drink a toast: "To the club.'' I'd like to repeat that salute with you today. For a century, the Army and Navy Club has played an important role in the life of the Republic. May the second century eclipse the first. And so, ladies and gentlemen, a salute: "To the club.'' Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:10 a.m. in the dining room of the club. In his opening remarks, he referred to Brig. Gen. James D. Hittle, USMC, Ret.; Maj. Gen. Donald S. Dawson, USAF, Ret.; and Charles J. Graham; president, vice president, and general manager, respectively, of the club.