Washington, D.C. -- November 7, 2007
Ladies and Gentlemen of the United States Congress,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I want to start by telling you something: For France, friendship first and foremost means being true to one's friends, to one's values, to one's history. France is the friend of the United States of America. It's not just the President of France who is talking, I am only the mouthpiece of the people of France.
Since the United States first appeared on the world scene, our two peoples – the American people and the French people – have always been friends. The hardships our two countries have undergone have strengthened this friendship.
Friends may have differences; they may have disagreements; they may have disputes as families do.
But in times of difficulty, in times of hardship, friends stand together, side by side; they support each other and help one another.
In times of difficulty, in times of hardship, America and France have always stood side by side, supported one another, helped one another and fought for each other's freedom.
The United States and France remain true to the memory of their common history. It is our duty to remain true to the blood spilled by their children in common battles on both sides of the Atlantic. But the United States and France are not merely two nations true to the memory of what they accomplished together in the past. The United States and France are two nations that remain true to the same ideal, that defend the same principles, that believe in the same values.
I am speaking in front of the portraits of Washington and Lafayette. Lafayette was the first foreign dignitary to address a joint session of Congress. What was it that brought these two men – so far apart in age and background –
Lafayette and Washington, together? It was their common values, the same love for freedom and justice. Upon first meeting Washington, Lafayette told him: “I have come here to this land of America to learn, not to teach.” He had come from the Old World to the New World and he said: "I have come to learn and not to teach." It was the new spirit and youth of the Old World seeking out the wisdom of the New World to open here, in America, a new era for all of humanity.
The American dream. From the very beginning, this American dream meant putting into practice what the Old World had merely dreamed of building.
The American dream. From the very beginning, from its origins, this American dream meant proving to all mankind that freedom, justice, human rights and democracy were no utopia but rather the most realistic policy there is and the most likely to improve the fate of each and every person.
America did not tell the millions of men and women who came from every country in the world and who – with their hands, their intelligence and their hearts – built the greatest nation in the world: “Come, and everything will be given to you.” She said: “Come, and the only limits to what you'll be able to achieve will be your own courage and your own talent.” The America we love throughout the world is the country that has this extraordinary ability to grant each and every person a second chance, since in America, failure is never definitive.
Here, in your country, in this land, the humblest and most illustrious citizens alike know that nothing is owed to them and that everything has to be earned. This is what constitutes the moral value of America. America did not teach men the idea of freedom. America taught them how to practice it. And she fought for this freedom whenever she felt it threatened. It was by watching America grow that men and women understood that freedom was possible. And this is what gives you a special responsibility.
What made America great was her ability to transform her dream, the American dream, into hope for all mankind.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The men and women of my generation heard their grandparents talk about how, in 1917, America saved France at a time when my country had reached the final limits of its strength, at a time when France was exhausted in the most absurd and bloodiest of wars. France was able to count on the courage of the American soldiers. I have come to tell you, in the name of the French people, that we shall never forget this.
The men and women of my generation heard their parents talk about how, in 1944, America returned to free Europe for us from the horrifying tyranny that threatened to enslave us.
Fathers, in my country, took their sons to see the vast cemeteries where, under thousands of white crosses so far from home, lay thousands of young American soldiers who had fallen not to defend their own freedom but the freedom of all others, who died far from home, not to defend their own families, their own homeland, but to defend humanity as a whole.
That's why we love America.
Fathers took their sons to the beaches where the young men of America had so heroically landed. Fathers read their sons the admirable letters of farewell that those 20-year-old soldiers had written to their families before the battle to tell them: “We aren't heroes. We want this war to be over. But however much dread we may feel, you can count on us.” Before they landed, Eisenhower told them – and in Europe we haven't forgotten: “The eyes of the world are upon you, young Americans. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”
And as they listened to their fathers, watched movies, read history books and the letters of your soldiers who died on our beaches of Normandy and Provence, as they visited the cemeteries where the star-spangled banner flies, the children of my generation understood that these young Americans, 20 years old, were true heroes to whom we owed the fact that we were free people and not slaves. America liberated us. It's an eternal debt. And as President of the French Republic, it's my duty to tell the people of America, whom you represent in your diversity, that France will never forget the sacrifice of your children, and to tell the families of those who never returned, the children who mourned fathers they barely got a chance to know, that France's gratitude is permanent.
On behalf of my generation, which did not experience war, on behalf of our children who will always remember, to all the veterans here today and, notably the seven I had the honor to decorate yesterday evening, one of whom, Senator Inouye, belongs to your Congress, I want to express the French people's deep, sincere gratitude. I want to tell you something important: Whenever an American soldier falls somewhere in the world, I think of what the American army did for France. I think of them and I am sad, as one is sad to lose a member of one's family.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is more important than all the disagreements we may have had and all the agreements we may have in the future. This is the bedrock of the relationship between France and the United States of America.
The men and women of my generation remember the Marshall Plan that allowed their fathers to rebuild a devastated Europe.
The men and women of my generation remember the Cold War, during which America again stood as the bulwark of the Free World against the threat of new tyranny.
I remember the Berlin crisis and President Kennedy who unhesitatingly risked engaging the United States in the most destructive of wars so that Europe could preserve the freedom for which the American people had already sacrificed so much. Forgetting this would, for a person of my generation, be tantamount to self-denial.
But my generation did not love America only because she had defended freedom. We also loved America because, for us, she embodied what was most audacious about the human adventure; for us, America embodied the spirit of conquest. We loved America because, for us, America was a new frontier that was continuously pushed back – a constantly renewed challenge to the inventiveness of the human spirit.
My generation, without coming to your land, shared all the American dreams. Our imaginations were fueled by the winning of the West and Hollywood. By Elvis Presley whom people are perhaps not used to mentioning within these walls, but for my generation he is universal. By Duke Ellington, Hemingway. By John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth. And by Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, fulfilling mankind's oldest dream; the day the Americans walked on the moon America was universal and everyone wanted to be part of the adventure.
What was extraordinary, more extraordinary for us was that through your literature, your cinema and your music, America always seemed to us to emerge from adversity even greater and stronger; instead of causing America to doubt herself, such ordeals only seemed to strengthen your belief in your values.
What makes America strong is the strength of this ideal that is shared by all Americans and by all those who love her because they love freedom.
I say this before this Congress: America's strength is not only a material strength, it is first and foremost a moral force, a spiritual strength. No one expressed this better than a black pastor who asked just one thing of America: that she be true to the ideal in whose name he – the grandson of a slave – felt so deeply American. His name was Martin Luther King. He made America a universal role model in the world.
And the world still remembers his words, which no young French citizen of my generation has forgotten. Martin Luther King's words – words of love, dignity and justice. America heard those words and America changed. And the men and women who had doubted America because they no longer recognized her began loving America again.
Fundamentally, what are those who love America asking of her, if not to remain forever true to her founding values? Ladies and gentlemen,
Today as in the past, as we stand at the beginning of the 21st- century, it is together that we must fight to defend and promote the values and ideals of freedom and democracy that men such as Washington and Lafayette invented together.
Together, united, we must fight against terrorism. On September 11, 2001, all of France –horrorstruck – rallied to the side of the American people. The front-page headline of one of our major dailies read: “We are all, on this September 11, 2001, Americans.” And on that day, when you were mourning for so many dead, never had America appeared to us so great, so dignified, so strong. The terrorists had thought they would weaken you and they made you greater. And the entire world felt admiration for the courage of the American people. That's the truth. And from day one, France decided to participate shoulder to shoulder with you in the war in Afghanistan. Let me tell you solemnly today: France will remain engaged in Afghanistan as long as it takes, because what's at stake in that country is the future of our values and that of the Atlantic Alliance. Let me say solemnly before you today: Failure is not an option.
Terrorism will not win because democracies haven't the right to be weak, and because the free world is not afraid of this new barbarism. America can count on France in the fight against terrorism.
And it's together too that we must fight proliferation. Success in Libya and progress under way in North Korea shows that nuclear proliferation is not inevitable. Let me say it here before you: The prospect of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons is unacceptable for France. The Iranian people are a great people. The Iranian people, born of a great civilization, deserve better than the increased sanctions and growing isolation to which their leaders condemn them. We must convince Iran to choose cooperation, dialogue and openness. No one must doubt our determination. We will be firm and we will be able to have a dialogue because we will have found the way to be firm.
Together we must help the people of the Middle East find the path of peace and security. To the Israeli and Palestinian leaders I want to say this: Don't hesitate! Take every risk in order to achieve peace! And do it now! Because the status quo masks even greater dangers: that of delivering Palestinian society as a whole to the extremists who, unacceptably, contest Israel's existence; that of playing into the hands of radical regimes that are exploiting the deadlock in the conflict to destabilize the region; that of fueling the propaganda of terrorists who want to set Islam against the West. France will not compromise on Israel's security and France demands a State for the Palestinians. That is the only possible path to peace.
Together we must help the Lebanese people affirm their independence, their sovereignty, their freedom, their democracy. No one has the right to prevent Lebanon from living as a free country. What Lebanon needs today is a broad-based president elected by the Lebanese strictly in accordance with the Constitution. France will not accept attempts to subjugate the Lebanese people.
Ladies and gentlemen,
America feels she has a vocation to inspire the world. Because she is the most powerful country in the world. And because for more than two centuries America has striven to uphold the ideals of democracy and freedom, allow a friend of America to tell her that with this avowed responsibility comes duties for both America and France, one of the first of which is setting an example.
Those who love this nation, which, more than any other, has demonstrated the virtues of free enterprise, expect America to be the first to denounce the abuses and excesses of a financial capitalism that sets too great a store on speculation. They expect America to commit fully to the establishment of the necessary rules and safeguards. The America I love is the one that encourages entrepreneurs, not speculators.
Those who admire the nation that has built the world's greatest economy and never ceased trying to persuade the world of the advantages of free trade expect her to be the first to promote fair exchange rates. The yuan is already everyone's problem. The dollar cannot remain solely the problem of others. If we're not careful, monetary disarray could morph into economic war, of which we would all be the victims.
Those who love the America of wide open spaces, national parks and nature reserves expect America to stand alongside Europe in leading the fight against global warming that threatens the destruction of our planet. I know that each day, in their cities and states, the American people are more aware of the stakes. I take the liberty of saying, with all the friendship I have for America, that this battle is essential for the future of humanity. We cannot obtain the results we must obtain unless America takes the lead in this battle for the preservation of our planet, of mankind and the human race. We need America to protect the environment of the planet.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to express one last conviction: Trust Europe.
Our world is unstable, it is a dangerous world. I say here, the United States of America needs a strong, determined Europe. With the simplified treaty, the European Union is about to emerge from 10 years of discussions on its institutions, and thus of paralysis. Europe will soon have a stable president and a more powerful High Representative for foreign and security policy. I want to tell you that Europe must now give new impetus to building up its military capabilities.
The ambition I am proposing to our partners is based on a simple observation: There are more crises than capabilities to face them. NATO cannot be everywhere. The EU must be able to act in the Balkans and the Congo, and tomorrow in Sudan and Chad. For this the Europeans must step up their efforts.
My approach – I ask you to believe me – is not ideological. My approach is purely pragmatic. Having learned from history, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, I want the Europeans, in the years to come, to have the means to shoulder a growing share of their defense. I want to say these two things from the bottom of my heart so that everyone understands them: Who could blame the United States for ensuring its own security? No one. Who could blame me for wanting Europe to ensure more of its own security? No one. It's in the strategic interest of all our allies, beginning with the United States, with whom we most often share the same interests and the same adversaries, for Europe to establish itself as a strong, credible security partner.
At the same time, and equally forcefully, since I'm well aware of my country's political history, I want to affirm my attachment to NATO. I say it here before this Congress: The more successful we are in the establishment of a European Defense, the more France will be resolved to resume its full role in NATO.
I would like France, a founding member of our Alliance and already one of its largest contributors, to assume its full role in the effort to renew NATO's instruments and means of action and, in this context, to allow its relations with the Alliance to evolve concurrently with the development and strengthening of a European Defense.
This isn't the time for theological quarrels, we no longer have time for that! It's time for pragmatic responses to make our security tools more effective and more operational in the face of crises. The European Union and NATO must march hand in hand. It's our duty to protect our fellow citizens, we will protect them together. A credible and strong European defense within a revamped Alliance.
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Ladies and gentlemen,
Finally, I want to be your friend, your ally and your partner. But I want to be a friend who stands on his own two feet, an independent ally, a free partner. Because these are the values we share together.
France must be stronger. I am determined to carry through all the reforms that my country has put off for too long. I will not backtrack, because France has backtracked for too long. France has enormous assets. I want to put France in a position, while respecting its unique identity, to win all the battles of globalization. I passionately love France. I am clear-sighted about the work that remains to be accomplished.
It is this ambitious, clear-sighted France I have come to present to you today. A France that comes out to meet America to renew the pact of friendship and the alliance that Washington and Lafayette sealed in Yorktown.
Together, ladies and gentlemen, let us be worthy of their example. Together, let us be equal to their ambition. Together, let us be true to their memories!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in the name of the French people, I say to you:
Long live the United States of America!
Long live France!
And long live the friendship between France and the United States of America!