Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Bill, thank you for that wonderful introduction and I look forward very much to going to Camp Blair tomorrow night.
We have had a marvellous time here, just a wonderful and warm welcome and I would like, if I might, to begin by paying tribute to your President, to his determination, to his statesmanship and his courage. Bill, I am pleased to call you a good colleague and I am proud to call you a good friend. And as I saw at that high school earlier today when I witnessed the enthusiasm of those young people as they greeted you. I know I am not alone in supporting you, I know the American people support you too.
Can I also pay tribute to the First Lady as well who is admired the world over as we saw indeed in Britain last September at the funeral of Princess Diana which was a difficult and hard time for us, how she represented America with such dignity and grace. And within the past few days the whole world has seen those qualities of dignity and grace again. Thank you for all that you have done!
As I say, we have been greatly touched by our wonderful welcome but just in case we might get above ourselves I was intrigued to come across the following letter in the White House when I was with my staff earlier today. It is a very interesting thing that apparently happens to all visiting dignitaries. It is called "The Pronunciation Sheet", it is the names of those that are difficult for people to pronounce and it is headed up:
"Pronunciation Sheet - The Official Visit to Washington DC of the Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, Prime Minister" and then it has got a number of little boxes where you have got to answer things. It has got: "Members of the official British delegation: the Hon. Tony Blair, Prime Minister - Pronunciation: Blair; form of address: Mr Prime Minister". Then it has got the box marked "English-speaking - answer: Yes". Well, we have come a long way I know. We are getting the hang of your language as well!
We have only been in nine months. Some of you may have heard of the British minister that shortly after the election went to this great rally and said that the policies of a Conservative administration for 18 years had brought our country to the edge of a precipice and now was the time for a giant step forward. And we have been trying to recover from that ever since!
Since we have got our colleagues from the media here: I must defend them against the accusation that they have only been interested in trivia because the very first question I got when I was on the news programmes this morning here in America was: "Will you be raising with the President the four original stuffed models of A.A. Milnes' Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet and Tigger?" - Not yet, we haven't, no, but we will get round to that in time. Seriously, that is what they asked and the British ones as well.
Mr President, you talked about the relationship between our two countries over a period of time and you talked of course about how we stood together through the two world wars of this century and I know in fact that it was with Winston Churchill that the whole idea arose of visiting dignitaries coming and staying in Blair House - that is apparently because Churchill came to stay for a day and ended up staying a month and I think that Eleanor Roosevelt said that after then in the White House they should move across the road to Blair House.
Churchill was one of the great Englishmen of this century and I just came across something that was written about him the other day. Churchill was a very strong character, as you know, and there was a young guy who had just come into Churchill's government - this was in war-time Britain - as part of the coalition and came bouncing into Churchill because he had been prevented from going into the House of Commons by the Sergeant-at-Arms. And he comes in to Churchill and he says: "Mr Prime Minister, it is absolutely disgraceful! I have been stopped by the Sergeant-at-Arms from going into the House of Commons. I don't think they knew who I was!" and Churchill turned to him and said: "And who were you?"
Those great days of America and Britain standing together will be remembered and recalled through a whole period of time and one thing I wanted to share with you this evening was what was written in the great biography of Churchill by Martin Gilbert when he described the circumstances in the Second World War when Britain desperately needed the help of America. It wasn't certain that help would be given in the way that we wished, when there was a little turbulence in Congress over whether it should happen or not, and people were discussing the best way forward to help. Harry Hopkins, who was the emissary of the American President Roosevelt, went to see and to stay with Churchill. He went round Britain and on the last evening before he left to take home a message to America he gave a speech to the dinner and sitting next to Churchill he said: "I suppose you wish to know what I am going to say to President Roosevelt on my return!" And then Harry Hopkins said he would be quoting a verse from the Bible: "Whither Thou goest I will go and whither Thou lodgest I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people and thy God my God!" and Hopkins paused and then he said: "Even to the end!" and Churchill wept.
That was right at the most difficult, parlous, most poignant moment of our relations this century, and so it is easy to see why for anyone from Britain proud enough to be British Prime Minister who comes here, we feel that sense of our common history. But what binds us together, you know, is more than our history and it is greater than our language and it is deeper than our mutual self-interest. It is a genuine, shared understanding of what drives and motivates the human spirit, the striving to do and to be better, the great values of freedom and progress and justice that are the values that have motivated the best in my country throughout the ages and motivate the best in America today.
When we look around our world and see that crises are no longer confined to one nation - a national crisis becomes an international crisis - when we see the global economic change that drives through forces of difficulty for people that they have never contemplated before and when we see the social change that comes in the wake of that economic change, then those shared values are more important than ever before. And that shared understanding is more vital to our future than ever before because there are no problems that are solved simply by nations alone today. There are problems that face us all and must be solved by us as nations together. So our relationship, the relationship between Britain and America, yes, it is a relationship founded on a magnificent past but it is a relationship today every bit as important for our future.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to be here in the United States of America. I am proud to offer you the good wishes of my countrymen and women back home and it gives me enormous pleasure to propose a toast to the President of the United States and to the First Lady.