Remarks to American
Military Personnel and Their Families in
you very much, Ambassador Ruwe, Admiral McVadon, men and women of our Armed Forces, and my fellow
Americans. Thank you all. It's good to feel so at home. And I want to apologize
for being so late. As you know, General Secretary Gorbachev and I were to have
concluded our talks at , after more than 7 ½ hours
of meetings over the last 2 days. But when the hour for departure arrived, we
both felt that further discussions would be valuable. So, I called
the talks we've just concluded were hard and tough, and yet I have to say
extremely useful. We spoke about arms control, human rights, and regional
conflicts. And of course, Mr. Gorbachev and I were frank about our
disagreements. We had to be. In several critical areas, we made more progress
than we anticipated when we came to
both sides seek reduction in the number of nuclear missiles and warheads
threatening the world, the
cite all this history because if
I can't resist telling you a little story that I've just told the marine guard at the Embassy. The story has to do with saluting. I was a second lieutenant of horse cavalry back in the World War II days. As I told the admiral, I wound up flying a desk for the Army Air Force. And so, I know all the rules about not saluting in civilian clothes and so forth, and when you should or shouldn't. But then when I got this job -- [laughter] -- and I would be approaching Air Force One or Marine One and those marines would come to a salute and I -- knowing that I am in civilian clothes -- I would nod and say hello and think they could drop their hand, and they wouldn't. They just stood there. So, one night over at the Commandant's quarters, Marine Commandant's quarters in Washington, and I was getting a couple of highballs, and I didn't -- [laughter] -- know what to do with them. So, I said to the Commandant -- I said, ``Look, I know all the rules about saluting in civilian clothes and all, but if I am the Commander in Chief, there ought to be a regulation that would permit me to return a salute.'' And I heard some words of wisdom. He said, ``I think if you did, no one would say anything.'' [Laughter]
if you see me on television and I'm saluting, you know that I've got authority
for it now -- [laughter] -- and I do it happily. But you know there are some
people here I can't salute, of course, because they're civilians. But seeing
them does bring to mind all the sacrifices that your families make. So, whether
your families are here or back home, the next time you see them or write a
letter, you tell them for me their President thanks them -- and so does all
it's time to go now.
Since I'm so far away from them right now -- [laughter] -- I'm going to take a chance and tell you a little story, I think, about them. [Laughter] You know, when I think of them sometimes, and particularly the opposition that wants to do those ridiculous things, I think of those three fellows that came out of a building one day and found they'd locked themselves out of their car. And one of them said, ``Well, somebody get a wire coathanger.'' And he said, ``I can straighten it out and use it and get in and flip the handle and open it.'' And the second one said, ``You can't do that. Somebody would see you doing it and think you're stealing the car.'' And the third one said, ``Well, we'd better do something pretty quick, because it's starting to rain and the top's down.'' [Laughter]
But in closing, let me say simply this: You are not here on NATO's frontline, you're not making the sacrifice of leaving home and friends so far behind merely to keep the world from getting worse. You're here to make it better, for you're here in the name of liberty. Yes, the ultimate goal of American foreign policy is not just the prevention of war, but the expansion of freedom -- to see that every nation, every people, every person, some day enjoys the blessings of liberty. All that you do has strengthened world peace, the peace in which the flame of freedom can continue to burn and spread its light throughout the world.
I have to tell you that of all the things that I'm proud of in this job, none match the pride that I have in those of you who are wearing the uniform of your country -- you young men and women. God bless you.
Many years ago, at the beginning of World War II, General George Marshall was asked what was our secret weapon. And he said then, ``Just the best blankety-blank kids in the world.'' Well, I have to tell you, we've still got that secret weapon.
God bless all of you. Thank you very much.
The President spoke at at