[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[February 5, 1998]
[Pages 183-184]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the State Dinner Honoring Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom
February 5, 1998

    Ladies and gentlemen, good evening, and welcome to the White House. 
To Prime Minister and Mrs. Blair, members of 
the British delegation, to all our distinguished guests, let me say that 
the bad news is you have to listen to two brief toasts; the good news is 
it comes at the beginning of the dinner. We are delighted to have all of 
you here.
    Tonight, in honor of the Prime Minister's visit, I would like to go 
over some of the highlights of the so-called special relationship 
between the United States and Great Britain. It began rather early in 
our history, this special relationship. [Laughter] In 1785 Thomas 
Jefferson, soon to be our first Secretary of State, insisted that the 
United Kingdom was an evil empire whose time was running out. [Laughter] 
``The sun of her glory is fast descending to the horizon,'' he said, 
with uncharacteristic myopia.
    In 1814 marauding English soldiers gave new meaning to the term 
``global warming'' when they torched the White House where we sit 
tonight--[laughter]--along with much of the surrounding countryside. My 
predecessor James Madison was lucky to escape with very few belongings 
and a chastened view of our defense capabilities.
    But Mr. Prime Minister, we are a forgiving people. And we learned a 
valuable lesson on that night in 1814: From now on, let's get these guys 
on our side. That's been the core of our foreign policy ever since. 
    When we think over the challenges of the 20th century, it's 
extraordinary what our two nations have been through together, decade 
after decade, staring down the darkest threats in the history of 
humankind. We would not have survived this turbulent century without the 
grand alliance joining our peoples. Through common values and a common 
language, we have forged an uncommon friendship.
    Let me take this opportunity to announce that in honor of your 
visit, the place where you and Cherie are staying will now be forever 
known as Blair House. [Laughter]
    Tonight we look forward to a new millennium and a 21st century 
alliance for peace, prosperity, and progress. We have a rare chance to 
bring fruition to a century's worth of partnership. We can define the 
new century before it begins, escaping the 20th century's darkest 
moments and seizing the new century's most brilliant possibilities. We 
can stand together against tyrants. We can help peace flourish from 
Bosnia to

[[Page 184]]

Northern Ireland to the Middle East. We can continue to open our minds, 
our hearts, our societies to new ideas and new possibilities.
    Mr. Prime Minister, you are breathing new life into politics and 
restoring faith in ancient principles of liberty so dear to every 
citizen of your realm. Throughout our history, our peoples have 
reinforced each other in the living classroom of democracy. It is 
difficult to imagine Jefferson, for example, without John Locke before 
him, difficult to imagine Lincoln without knowing that he read 
Shakespeare and Bunyan on the frontier.
    In the new century, we must continue together undaunted--in the 
words of the Anglo-American poet W.H. Auden, ``never beleaguered by 
negation, always showing an affirming flame.'' One of our most 
stubbornly affirmative Presidents, Harry Truman, felt that way. It's a 
rather closely guarded secret that this hard-nosed Missourian was 
shamelessly devoted to 19th century English sentimental poetry. When he 
graduated from high school in 1901, at the dawn of the new century, 
Harry Truman copied his favorite poem onto a piece of paper. Throughout 
his life, he kept it with him, which required him to recopy it at least 
20 times. Tennyson's ``Locksley Hall'' may seem an unusual choice, but 
the poem resonated with Truman's optimistic vision of the future, a 
future that then, as now, was limitless.
    With a new century beginning, ``Locksley Hall'' still holds the 
promise of a better life for those of us glimpsing the new world just 
over the horizon: ``For I dipped into the future, far as human eye could 
see, saw the vision of the world and all the wonder that could be.'' We 
must realize the promise of that poem.
    Our alliance is strong. Our personal friendship is strong. It is a 
pleasure and an honor for Hillary and for me to reciprocate the 
hospitality that you, Mr. Prime Minister and Cherie, showed to us last 
May. And so I ask you all, ladies and gentlemen, to join me in raising a 
glass to my good friend the Prime Minister of Great Britain, to Cherie, 
and all the people who are here with them, who represent the best 
promise of our tomorrows.

[At this point, the President toasted the Prime Minister.]

    Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:11 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the 
White House. The transcript made available by the Office of the Press 
Secretary also included the remarks of Prime Minister Blair.