Remarks Upon Returning From the Soviet-United States Summit Meeting in Moscow
June 3, 1988
The Vice President. Mr. President and Mrs. Reagan, I'm delighted to say on behalf of the people of the United States of America, welcome home, and well done! Everyone in America watched your historic trip and hoped for the best and pulled for you. And now it's over, and we can all say that you've made a historic contribution to peace in the world.
On arms control, Mrs. Thatcher probably put it best when she said that you have bravely gone forward in spite of the voices of denial and doubt. You showed the only way to succeed is by retaining your resolve and speaking with conviction. As for the latter, I suspect you know, Mr. President, that you caught a little flack for bringing up the issue of human rights so forcefully right there in the heart of the Soviet system. But most Americans felt as I did: We have a tradition of freedom and a history of free speech, and what's wrong with telling the other guy how you feel?
The fact is you made us proud. This week an American President strode the hard ground of Red Square and reminded the world through the sureness of his step and the lilt of his words what a bracing thing freedom is -- what a moving and bracing thing. So, welcome back, Mr. President. It's good to see you. God bless you and Nancy.
The President. Well, thank you all very much. As some of you may have heard, Mr. Gorbachev and I've been trading Russian proverbs this week. [Laughter] But you know, flying back across the Atlantic today, it was an American saying that kept running through my mind. Believe me, as far as Nancy and I are concerned, there's no place like home.
We want to thank all of you for coming out today. We're grateful for your enthusiasm and for the warmth of your welcome. And take it from me, all this red, white, and blue scenery hits these two weary travelers right where we live. If I might paraphrase George M. Cohan: Some may call it a flag-waving, but right now I can't think of a better flag to wave.
We're a little tired, but we're exhilarated at what has happened -- exhilarated, too, at the thought of the future and what may lie ahead for the young people of America and all of the world. The events of this week in Moscow were momentous -- not conclusive perhaps, but momentous. And believe me, right now momentous will do just fine.
You know, it's occurred to me that time does have a way of sorting things out. For many years now, Americans have seen the danger of war and pleaded the cause of peace. And other Americans have seen the danger of totalitarianism and pleaded the cause of freedom. So, I was just thinking, why don't we just agree today on something that maybe we should have been saying to each other all along: that we're all Americans and that we all have one and the same burning cause in our hearts -- the cause of world peace and the cause of world freedom.
Peace and freedom are what this trip was about, and we saw some real progress in several areas in Moscow -- on human rights, on regional conflicts, on greater contacts between the people of the Soviet Union and the United States. We exchanged the documents that put into force an historic treaty that eliminates for the first time an entire class of U.S. and Soviet nuclear weapons and establishes real breakthroughs in verification procedures. And we made tangible progress toward an even more historic treaty on strategic weapons -- yes, a 50-percent reduction in nuclear weapons. All of this was good and promising for the future.
But there's something else I want to tell you about. I wish you could've seen the faces we saw in the Soviet Union. As I said to the young people at Moscow State University, it was hard, really, to tell them apart from any other group of students -- in our country or anywhere else in the world. And as I told Mr. Gorbachev, there were also the faces, young and old, we saw on the streets of Moscow. At first, more than anything else, they were curious faces, but as time went on, the smiles began and then the waves. And I don't have to tell you Nancy and I smiled back and waved just as hard. The truth came home to us once again. It isn't people, but governments that make war. And it isn't people, but governments that erect barriers that keep us apart.
Much is happening in the Soviet Union. We hope and pray that the signs of change continue there. Our pledge -- Mr. Gorbachev and I -- is to work to continue building a better understanding between our two countries. But let's remember, too, that just as our forward strategy of peace and freedom anticipated positive changes, it remains ready to take us over any bumps in the road. And that's because our strategy is based on faith in the eventual triumph of human freedom.
That faith in freedom, that abiding belief in what the unfettered human spirit can accomplish, defines us as a people and a nation. And you know, I've been told that even a few veteran journalists said a chill went through them this week at a sight they never thought they would see in their lifetime: an American President there in the heart of Moscow talking about economic, political, and individual freedoms to the future leaders of the Soviet Union; explaining that freedom makes a difference, and explaining how freedom works; talking, too, about the possibility of a new age of prosperity and peace, where old antagonisms between nations can someday be put behind us, a new age that can be ours if only we'll reach out to it.
Ladies and gentlemen, all across our country during these weeks of spring it's graduation time. And I hope our young graduates know what a sudden, startling future may now be before them, a future brought about by a technological and information revolution based on a growing understanding of the nexus between economic growth and creative freedom. But I hope, too, that young Americans -- and all Americans -- will always remember that this revolution is only the continuation of a revolution begun two centuries ago, a revolution of hope, a hope that someday a new land might become a place where freedom's light would beacon forth. That faith in freedom, that belief in the unalienable rights of man begun in Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia, traveled last week to the Lenin Hills in Moscow.
It was the selflessness of so many Americans that brought it there, selflessness by Americans for over two centuries, but especially by those Americans who fought what has truly been called the twilight struggle of the postwar years, a struggle where national interest was not always clearly defined or adversaries easily identified or sacrifice fully appreciated. Now, more than ever, we must continue. The judgment of future generations will be harsh upon us if, after so much sacrifice and now at the hour of hope, we falter or fail. Let us resolve to continue, one nation, one people, united in our love of peace and freedom, determined to keep our defenses strong, to stand with those who struggle for freedom across the world, to keep America a shining city, a light unto the nations.
And let us remember, too, that there's work remaining here at home, that whatever the accomplishments of America, we must never be prideful toward others. We have much to learn from peoples of foreign lands and other cultures, nor should we ever grow content. Let us never rest until every American of every race or background knows the full blessing of liberty, until justice for all is truly justice for all. And most of all, let us remember that being an American means remembering another loyalty, a loyalty as, the hymn puts it, "to another country I have heard of, a place whose King is never seen and whose armies cannot be counted.''
And yet if patriotism is not the only thing, it is one of the best things. And we can be grateful to God that we have seen such a rebirth of it here in this country. And you know, it's true, frequently when such moments happen in a nation's history, there's a popular saying or song that speaks for that time. And just maybe this verse sounds familiar to you: "If tomorrow, all things were gone I'd worked for all my life, and I had to start again with just my children and my wife, I'd thank my lucky stars to be living here today 'cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can't take that away.''
Nancy and I have full hearts today. We're grateful to all of you and to the American people, grateful for the chance to serve, grateful for all the support and warmth that you've given us over the years. And you know what else? We think our friend Lee Greenwood has it just right, "All our days, and especially today, there ain't no doubt we love this land. God bless the U.S.A.!''
Note: The President spoke at 4:46 p.m. in Hangar 3 at Andrews Air Force Base, MD.