June 5, 1984
This year, thousands of Americans are returning to the Normandy shores to revisit the scene of that momentous landing 40 years ago. This week hundreds are, like myself, guests in your country as we join in remembering that day. On behalf of all Americans, I thank you for your gracious hospitality.
Franco-American friendship has a long and proud past. Indeed, one of the great heroes of American history is a Frenchman. Many towns, streets, and squares -- even a college -- in America bear his name. A beautiful park that I look out upon each day -- directly across the street from the White House in Washington -- is named in honor of him. He was the Marquis de Lafayette, and he served with George Washington as a general in the American Revolutionary Army. Yet despite the importance of Lafayette's military skill, he took a step as a legislator that had perhaps even greater significance for the two centuries of friendship and alliance between your country and mine.
On July 11th, 1789, as a Deputy in the French National Assembly, Lafayette introduced a bill calling for the passage of a Declaration of the Rights of Man. Formally adopted by the assembly 6 weeks later, the Declaration appeared as the Preamble to the French Constitution of 1791. This Declaration of the Rights of Man embodied the same fundamental beliefs about human liberty as those expressed in the American Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. Together, those French and American documents proclaim that all men are endowed with equal and sacred rights, that among these, in the words of the American Declaration, are ``Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'' It is this shared commitment to human freedom that has formed the bedrock on which our fast friendship has been built. And it was in the name of this human freedom that so many brave men risked their lives on the beaches of Normandy 40 years ago.
Those courageous men, living and dead, gave us a priceless legacy of peace and prosperity in Europe -- a legacy that has endured now for two generations. To preserve that legacy of peace, those of us who cherish liberty must continue to labor together.
Your country and mine belong to an alliance committed to democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law. Of course, membership in the alliance imposes its burdens. To demonstrate the American commitment to this continent, thousands of American troops are stationed here in Europe, far from their homes and families. France, the United States, and all the alliance nations, must spend more on defense than any of us like to do in peacetime. But the burdens we bear in defending our freedom are far less than the horrors we would have to endure if we lost that freedom.
I believe that the best way we can honor those who gave so much 40 years ago, is by rededicating ourselves today to the cause for which they fought: freedom -- freedom for ourselves, freedom for our children, and freedom for generations yet unborn.
Thank you, and God bless you.
Note: The remarks were broadcast on French television (FR-3).