- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Excerpts of remarks by President Bush yesterday at Whitehall Palace in London:

Americans traveling to England always observe more similarities to our country than differences. I’ve been here only a short time, but I’ve noticed that the tradition of

free speech — exercised with enthusiasm — is alive and well here in London. We have that at home, too. They now have that right in Baghdad, as well.

The people of Great Britain also might see some familiar traits in Americans. We’re sometimes faulted for a naive faith that liberty can change the world. If that’s an error, it began with reading too much John Locke and Adam Smith. Americans have, on occasion, been called moralists who often speak in terms of right and wrong. That zeal has been inspired by examples on this island, by the tireless compassion of Lord Shaftesbury, the righteous courage of Wilberforce and the firm determination of the Royal Navy over the decades to fight and end the trade in slaves.

It’s rightly said that Americans are a religious people. That’s in part because the “Good News” was translated by Tyndale, preached by Wesley, lived out in the example of William Booth. At times, Americans are even said to have a puritan streak — where might that have come from? Well, we can start with the Puritans.

To this fine heritage, Americans have added a few traits of our own: the good influence of our immigrants, the spirit of the frontier. Yet, there remains a bit of England in every American. So much of our national character comes from you, and we’re glad for it.

The fellowship of generations is the cause of common beliefs. We believe in open societies ordered by moral conviction. We believe in private markets, humanized by compassionate government. We believe in economies that reward effort, communities that protect the weak and the duty of nations to respect the dignity and the rights of all. And whether one learns these ideals in County Durham or in West Texas, they instill mutual respect and they inspire common purpose. …

The United States and Great Britain share a mission in the world beyond the balance of power or the simple pursuit of interest. We seek the advance of freedom and the peace that freedom brings. Together our nations are standing and sacrificing for this high goal in a distant land at this very hour. And America honors the idealism and the bravery of the sons and daughters of Britain.

The last president to stay at Buckingham Palace was an idealist, without question. At a dinner hosted by King George V in 1918, Woodrow Wilson made a pledge. With typical American understatement, he vowed that right and justice would become the predominant and controlling force in the world. …

At Wilson’s high point of idealism, however, Europe was one short generation from Munich and Auschwitz and the blitz. Looking back, we see the reasons why. The League of Nations, lacking both credibility and will, collapsed at the first challenge of the dictators. Free nations failed to recognize, much less confront, the aggressive evil in plain sight. …

Through world war and cold war, we learned that idealism, if it is to do any good in this world, requires common purpose and national strength, moral courage and patience in difficult tasks. And now our generation has need of these qualities. …

It’s been said that those who live near a police station find it hard to believe in the triumph of violence, in the same way free peoples might be tempted to take for granted the orderly societies we have come to know. Europe’s peaceful unity is one of the great achievements of the last half-century. And because European countries now resolve differences through negotiation and consensus, there’s sometimes an assumption that the entire world functions in the same way.

But let us never forget how Europe’s unity was achieved — by allied armies of liberation and NATO armies of defense. And let us never forget, beyond Europe’s borders, in a world where oppression and violence are very real, liberation is still a moral goal, and freedom and security still need defenders. …

As recent history has shown, we cannot turn a blind eye to oppression just because the oppression is not in our own back yard. No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign to its victims, and our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found. …

Ladies and gentlemen, we have great objectives before us that make our Atlantic alliance as vital as it has ever been. We will encourage the strength and effectiveness of international institutions. We will use force when necessary in the defense of freedom. And we will raise up an ideal of democracy in every part of the world. On these three pillars we will build the peace and security of all free nations in a time of danger. …

America has always found strong partners in London, leaders of good judgment and blunt counsel and backbone when times are tough. …

The ties between our nations, however, are deeper than the relationship between leaders. These ties endure because they are formed by the experience and responsibilities and adversity we have shared. And in the memory of our peoples, there will always be one experience, one central event when the seal was fixed on the friendship between Britain and the United States: The arrival in Great Britain of more than 1.5 million American soldiers and airmen in the 1940s was a turning point in the Second World War. …

Our lads, they took some getting used to. There was even a saying about what many of them were up to — in addition to be “overpaid and over here.” At a reunion in North London some years ago, an American pilot who had settled in England after his military service said, “Well, I’m still over here, and probably overpaid. So two out of three isn’t bad.”

In that time of war, the English people did get used to the Americans. They welcomed soldiers and fliers into their villages and homes, and took to calling them “our boys.” About 70,000 of those boys did their part to affirm our special relationship. They returned home with English brides.

Americans gained a certain image of Britain, as well. We saw an island threatened on every side, a leader who did not waver and a country of the firmest character. And that has not changed. The British people are the sort of partners you want when serious work needs doing. The men and women of this kingdom are kind and steadfast and generous and brave. And America is fortunate to call this country our closest friend in the world.


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