[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[February 23, 1995]
[Pages 257-259]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Gala Dinner in Ottawa
February 23, 1995

    Prime Minister and Mrs. Chretien, Ambassador and Mrs. Chretien, 
Ambassador and Mrs. Blanchard, ladies and gentlemen: Let me begin by 
thanking the Prime Minister for his generous words and by thanking Prime 
Minister and Mrs. Chretien and all of our Canadian hosts for making 
Hillary and me feel so at home here today in our first day of this 
wonderful visit.
    We all have so much in common, so many roots in common. I couldn't 
help thinking, when we shared so many jokes in the Parliament today and 
so many good laughs, of all the things I might have said. One of the 
things that is most fascinating to Americans about Canada is the way you 
blend your cultures. I understand, now that we've come across the river 
from Ottawa to Hull, everything is first in French and then in English. 
And I'm trying to accommodate to all this. And I thought about a true 
story that I would share with you.
    One of the members of our official party today came all the way from 
Georgia, Mr. Gordon Giffen, who's sitting out here, but he was born in 
Canada. And you should know that Georgia, in the heart of the American 
South, has a Lieutenant Governor named Pierre How-

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ard. He was very self-conscious about running with a name like Pierre in 
the South. And in desperation one day, he said, ``Well, you have to 
understand, Pierre is French for Bubba.'' [Laughter] And you all know 
that I come from Arkansas. I can say to you with absolute confidence 
that if any person from my State were here tonight, he or she would say, 
``Je me sens chez moi au Canada [I feel at home in Canada].''
    The Prime Minister and I have a lot in common. We have smalltown 
roots and modest backgrounds, his in Shawinigan in Quebec. Did I say 
that right? Shawinigan? Shawinigan. Better? And mine in Hope--I have a 
hometown that's easier to pronounce. We began early in political life. 
He entered the Parliament, I think, when he was 29. I tried to enter the 
Congress when I was 28. I failed, and I have been grateful for it ever 
since. [Laughter]
    Our political persuasions and our programs are so similar that one 
magazine called me a closet Canadian. I think that is a compliment, and 
I take it as such. We talk a lot about our humble roots. At home when 
our friends wish to make fun of me, they say that if I talk long enough 
I will convince people that I was born in a log cabin I built myself. 
And that's what I thought the first time I met Prime Minister Chretien. 
    We've had a few agonizing political defeats, and we've managed a 
comeback. As I think about it, I can only think of one thing that 
separates me from the Prime Minister: about 15 points in the public 
opinion polls. [Laughter] I resent it, but I'm doing what I can to 
overcome it.
    Mr. Prime Minister, one of the glories of Ottawa is the wonderful 
old canal that winds through this community. It's protected by sweeping 
and weeping willows in the summertime, and it's, as I saw today, 
animated by skaters in the winter. As I understand it, the canal was 
constructed about 150 years ago by a British engineer to help defend 
Canada from the United States. Thankfully, I'm told that if you ask most 
Canadians today why the canal was built, they can't say. The fact that 
the canal's origin is unremembered speaks volumes about the unique 
relationship between our two countries: neighbors, allies, friends. Each 
of us is blessed to share with the other the bounty of this magnificent 
    Over the years the partnership we have forged has produced many 
tangible benefits for our people, as you pointed out. We have a joint 
defense program that protects our skies and makes us more secure. We 
have a shared commitment to our environment that improves the quality of 
the air we breathe and the water we drink. We have economies that are so 
complementary we enjoy the world's largest trading relationship in ways 
that create jobs and raise incomes on both sides of our border. We have 
a common passion for democracy that has united us in trying to protect 
freedom and peace and democracy and enterprise far from our own lands.
    The interests and values we share have allowed us to recognize and 
respect our differences as well. Canada has shown the world how to build 
a gentler society with a deeply felt concern for the health and well-
being of all its citizens. It has shown the world that strength and 
compassion are not incompatible. There is much in your country from 
which Americans can and do draw inspiration.
    And so tonight, in celebrating all that unites us, let us also 
remember that which is unique in our countries. Hillary and I enjoyed 
very much our all-too-brief tour of this magnificent tribute to your 
unique culture. Let us resolve to work together to bring out the best in 
each other as we move forward together as partners and as friends. Long 
live this great nation.
    Mr. Prime Minister, one of your most illustrious predecessors, 
Lester Pearson, put it well when he said, ``I now accept with equanimity 
the question so constantly addressed to me, `Are you an American?' and 
merely return the accurate answer, `Yes, I am a Canadian.' ''
    And so tonight, in celebrating our countries and what unites us, let 
us work together and let us say: Long live Canada! Vive le Canada!

Note: The President spoke at approximately 8:35 p.m. in the Grand Hall 
at the Museum of Civilization. In his remarks, he referred to Prime 
Minister Jean Chretien and his wife, Aline; U.S. Ambassador to Canada 
James Blanchard and his wife, Janet; and Canadian Ambassador to the 
United States Raymond Chretien and his wife, Kay.

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