March 8, 1985

The challenge of statesmanship is to have the vision to dream of a better, safer world and the courage, persistence, and patience to turn that dream into reality. Since the dawn of the nuclear era, all God's children have lived with the fear of nuclear war and the danger of nuclear devastation. Our moral imperative is to work with all our power for that day when the children of the world can grow up without the fear of nuclear war.

So, today we reaffirm that vision: a world dedicated to the elimination of nuclear weapons, a world in which technology provides ever greater safety rather than greater fear. Today we set out on a new path toward agreements which radically reduce the size and destructive power of existing nuclear missiles.

Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko said last month: ``Our ultimate objective here is the complete elimination of nuclear weapons everywhere on this planet, the complete removal of the threat of nuclear war.'' Well, I welcome that statement and assure Mr. Chernenko that the elimination of nuclear weapons is also the ultimate objective of the American government and the American people.

It's now our task and responsibility to take practical steps to turn this vision into reality. We should have no illusions that this will be easy, since any venture of this magnitude will take time. And since the most vital security interests of both sides are at stake, this will clearly be long and difficult. We're realistic because we know that our differences with the Soviet Union are great. Patience, strength, and unity -- Western unity -- will, therefore, be required if we're to have a successful outcome.

Next week the United States and the Soviet Union meet in Geneva to begin a new dialog on these issues. And above all, we seek agreement as soon as possible on real and verifiable reductions in American and Soviet offensive nuclear arms. For our part, the United States is ready with firmness, patience, and understanding to negotiate fair and equitable agreements reducing the dangers of nuclear war and enhancing strategic stability.

I've just concluded a very good meeting with our three negotiators -- Ambassadors Max Kampelman, John Tower, and Mike Glitman -- which culminates an extensive round of preparations. In the meeting I gave my instructions for the first round of talks. These instructions enabled our negotiators to explore every promising avenue for progress. And they have my personal support.

Like Americans everywhere, I want these negotiations to succeed and will do everything I can to ensure that this happens. And I pray that the Soviet leadership is prepared to make the same commitment.

I want to thank our team for the fine work that they've already done in getting ready for this endeavor. As all of you prepare to leave for Geneva, I can't think of a more welcome message than an unmistakable vote of confidence from the American people and the Congress.

Ambassadors Kampelman, Tower, and Glitman and all the members of our negotiating team, I know that all of our fellow Americans wish you every success. And I know from my conversations with the bipartisan leadership of the Congress that the Congress of the United States joins in supporting you.

So, to all of you -- those who will be at Geneva and those who will be supporting this crucial effort from Washington -- best wishes, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:11 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. Earlier, the President met with the U.S. negotiators in the Oval Office.