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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 23, 2000
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                    AND KING JUAN CARLOS 1 OF SPAIN

State Dining Room

8:45 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome His Majesty King Juan Carlos, and Majesty Queen Sofia; members of the Spanish delegation; to all the rest of you. It is a great honor in this house of the American people, to welcome a King and Queen who are truly of their people.

Your Majesties, on behalf of all Americans, let me begin by expressing my condolences to the families of the two victims of yesterday's car bombing in Northern Spain. We stand with Spain in condemning this cowardly act, and call on those responsible to renounce the violence and terrorism which have taken too many innocent lives in recent years. In a democracy, we must settle our differences through dialogue, not destruction.

One of the greatest pleasures of the last seven years has been the opportunity that Hillary and I have had on many occasions to be with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. Five years ago, I welcomed them to the White House on the occasion of their son's graduation from my alma mater, the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. On that day, the King and Queen also received honorary doctorates.

The King joked that day that the reason the University had given him the degree was that if his son started bragging about his masters, he could always say, "Yes, but I am a doctor." (Laughter.)

Two years later, the King and Queen hosted Hillary, Chelsea and me just a few weeks after Chelsea graduated from high school. For me, it was the fulfillment of a long dream. When I was a young graduate student, more than 30 years ago, I first went to Spain, in the spring of 1969. I went to Granada to visit the Alhambra. I never got over it, and I promised myself that one day, somehow, I would return.

Well, thanks to the King and Queen, I was once again able to see the sun set over the plains of Granada, in a style slightly better than that which I enjoyed as a graduate student. (Laughter.)

It is a special honor for us to have the King and the Queen here today, on the anniversary of the day in which the courage of the King literally saved democracy for Spain.

Our friendship is just the latest chapter in a long history of friendship between our two nations. Five centuries ago, the vision of Queen Isabella guided sailors across vast oceans to discover a new world. The Spanish of that day left their language, their religion, and much of their culture on these shores. The state in which I was born once was part of the Spanish Empire. And I suppose, Your Majesties, I am, in a sense, one of your subjects. (Laughter.)

Today, five centuries later, Christopher Columbus is the only foreign citizen America honors with a national holiday. For some time now, Spanish has been our second most spoken language, and all across American, Spanish-speaking men and women, many of whom are here tonight, enrich our nation and our lives. Today, five centuries after Spain helped to lead the world through the age of exploration, it is the vision of a direct descendent of Queen Isabella -- His Majesty, King Juan Carlos -- who is helping to lead this new world through a new age of information.

Spain is spreading the values of democracy, respect for human rights and free markets across the globe, from Latin America to the Balkans, Europe to the Middle East. Your Majesties, we are proud in America to be your partners, your allies and your friends.

St. Isadore once wrote, "Spain is the most beautiful of all the lands extending from the West to India; for through her, East and West receive light." Today, may the light of our friendship continue to inspire and enlighten nations from East to West, as we work to build a world that is more democratic, more open, more free, and at peace.

I ask you all to join me in a toast to the King and Queen of Spain, and the people of their wonderful country.

(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)

KING JUAN CARLOS: Mr. President, Mrs. Clinton, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. Every time the Queen and I have the opportunity to again find ourselves in the White House, we always remember when, on our honeymoon, we were invited to share a few hours with President Kennedy and his wife. With their warm welcome and throughout the long and sincere conversation we had, this well-remembered couple showed an extraordinary regard for us and for our country.

Many years have gone by, and circumstances today are quite different. Still the sensation of deep affection and friendship that we feel today is, if possible, even stronger and more evident. The hospitality, and especially the friendship and warmth of the President and First Lady have created a particularly cordial atmosphere for our brief stay here in Washington.

For this visit must, above all, be seen in the light of our friendship -- the friendship that the Queen and I have for you and your wife, Mr. President, and that which exists between our two nations, which is founded not only on history, but on the future and our common principles and values. The defense of these principles and values, brutally violated yesterday in Spain by the criminal action of the terrorist group, ETA, should encourage us to strengthen to the maximum the cooperation to combat terrorism.

It is not necessary to search in books and annals in order to ascertain our historical ties. As David Weber noted, across the length and breadth of this great country, names of states, counties, town, rivers, valleys, mountains, and other natural features bear witness, from California to Cape Canaveral, to the Spanish origin of America.

Today, Spanish is expanding in many towns and cities of this country. It is read and heard in the streets and shopping centers, in the media and in advertising. Thus, this society, which is becoming progressively bilingual, greatly enriches its cultural horizons and once again reaffirms its plural, open, and generous nature. It is the language of Cervantes, but also so many other men and women of the great family of nations spread over both sides of the Atlantic, which includes no less than 350 million people.

But the shared history, culture and language do not, by themselves, explain either the depth or the extent of our relations and our friendship. It is the values that we both consider inherent to our identity as a country and as a nation, which invigorate these links and guarantee their future. Democracy, respect for human rights, and fundamental freedoms, and ever more so, an awareness that solidarity with those nations which are less fortunate is the inescapable imperative that must guide our actions in the international sphere.

Allow me to conclude by making a personal reference to some particularly delightful days during which the Queen and I enjoyed the company of the President, Mrs. Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea. On the occasion of the NATO Summit, held in Madrid in July 1997, we had the opportunity to visit Majorca and Granada with them. Their openness and charm during those days won our affection and that of the Spanish people, and we will not forget them.

Their visit will certainly not be forgotten by the people of Granada who have adopted the President's words as a slogan for their city when he declared that, in Granada, facing the Alhambra, he had seen the most beautiful sunset he could remember.

In this context of friendship between ourselves and our countries, I ask you now to join me in a toast to President and Mrs. Clinton, and to the happiness and well-being of the American people.

(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)

END 9:05 P.M. EST