[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1996, Book I)]
[February 1, 1996]
[Pages 128-129]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Dinner Honoring President Jacques Chirac of France
February 1, 1996

    Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. President Chirac, Mrs. Chirac, 
members of the French delegation, to our distinguished guests from 
France and the United States, Hillary and I are delighted to welcome a 
great friend of our country to America's house.
    As President tonight I am thinking of the experience of one of my 
most illustrious predecessors, Thomas Jefferson. As every American 
knows, when Thomas Jefferson was Minister to France, he developed a 
fondness for everything French. When he returned home, his political 
opponents tried to turn the American people against him by accusing him 
of excessive Francophilia. [Laughter] Patrick Henry struck the harshest 
blow. He denounced Jefferson, and I quote, for ``abjuring his native 
victuals'' in favor of French cuisine. [Laughter] Somehow Jefferson 
overcame the attack and went on to become President. And thank goodness, 
today Americans consider a good French meal to be a supreme treat, not 
high treason. [Laughter] Still, I feel compelled to make full disclosure 
to our French guests: Our extraordinary White House chef, Walter Scheib, 
is an American. [Laughter]
    A decade before Thomas Jefferson went to France, France came to the 
aid of American people. Dozens of ships carrying cannon, rifles, 
mortars, and clothing crossed the Atlantic to supply those who were 
fighting here for our independence. At Yorktown, General George 
Washington's troops were one-half French. And together with the French 
fleet, they decided our great revolutionary struggle in freedom's favor 
there. So it is not an exaggeration to say that the American people owe 
our liberty to France.
    Today, freedom-loving people all over the world still look to France 
not only for its strength but for its values, the tolerance, the 
freedom, the progress. We see that in Bosnia where the heroism of 
France's soldiers and the determination of its President are helping 
peace to take hold. We see it in Africa where France is battling poverty 
and disease to bring hope to millions. We see it in Europe where French 
leadership is transforming Jean Monnet's vision of an undivided 
continent finally into a reality. And we see it in the struggle that 
France is waging against the forces of destruction in the modern world, 
against the terrorism, the organized crime, the drug trafficking, forces 
from which none of us are immune.
    Mr. President, I am grateful to have you as our partner in facing 
all these common challenges. I have long admired your political 
tenacity, and I have a suggestion that in France they should begin to 
call you ``Le Comeback Kid.'' [Laughter] I also think all of my fellow 
Americans should know that, as far as I know, the President is the only 
foreign head of state who once worked behind the counter at a Howard 
Johnson's restaurant. [Laughter]
    I know the deep affection he developed for our Nation lives on and 
that he still takes vaca-

[[Page 129]]

tions in California. Today he gave me some good advice; he suggested 
that I should spend a little time out there in the next few months. 
    Most of all, Mr. President, let me say I admire the course you have 
set for France and the strength and determination which you are bringing 
to pursuing that course. Our nations have a special responsibility to 
lead by example and by action. Under your leadership, France is meeting 
that responsibility. And the United States is very, very proud to be a 
partner on the verge of a new century with our very first ally.
    And so let us all raise a glass to France, to its President and 
First Lady, and to our enduring alliance. Long live our two nations.

Note: The President spoke at 8:36 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the 
White House.