Remarks to the Paasikivi Society and the League of Finnish-American
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Prime Minister, and ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by saying thank you to our hosts, the Finnish Government, the Paasikivi Society, and the League of Finnish-American Societies. It's a particular honor for me to come here today. This year -- the Year of Friendship, as Congress has proclaimed it, between the United States and Finland -- this year marks the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the first Finns in America and the establishment of a small Scandinavian colony near what is today Wilmington, Delaware -- an ancient people in a new world. And that is the story not only of those Finns but of all the peoples who braved the seas to settle in and build my country, a land of freedom for a nation of immigrants.
Yes, they founded a new world, but as they crossed the oceans, the mountains, and the prairies, those who made America carried the old world in their hearts -- the old customs, the family ties, and most of all the belief in God, a belief that gave them the moral compass and ethical foundation by which they explored an uncharted frontier and constructed a government and nation of, by, and for the people.
so, although we Americans became a new people, we also remain an ancient one,
for we're guided by ancient and universal values, values that Prime Minister Holkeri spoke of in Los Angeles this February when, after
recalling Finland's internationally recognized position of neutrality, he added
that Finland is ``tied to Western values of freedom, democracy, and human
rights.'' And let me add here, that for
We're gathered here today in this hall because it was here, almost 13 years ago, that the 35 nations of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe signed the Helsinki Final Act, a document that embodies the same ethical and moral principles and the same hope for a future of peace that Finns and so many other European immigrants gave America. The Final Act is a singular statement of hope. Its ``three baskets'' touch on almost every aspect of East-West relations, and taken together form a kind of map through the wilderness of mutual hostility to open fields of peace and to a common home of trust among all of our sovereign nations -- neutrals, nonaligned, and alliance members alike. The Final Act sets new standards of conduct for our nations and provided the mechanisms by which to apply those standards.
Yes, the Final Act goes beyond arms control, once the focus of international dialog. It reflects a truth that I have so often noted: Nations do not distrust each other because they are armed; they are armed because they distrust each other. The Final Act grapples with the full range of our underlying differences and deals with East-West relations as an interrelated whole. It reflects the belief of all our countries that human rights are less likely to be abused when a nation's security is less in doubt; that economic relations can contribute to security, but depend on the trust and confidence that come from increasing ties between our peoples, increasing openness, and increasing freedom; and that there is no true international security without respect for human rights. I can hardly improve on the words President Koivisto used in this hall 2 years ago when he recalled that ``security is more than the protection of borders and social structures. It is emphasized in the Final Act that individual persons who live in the participating states have to feel in their own lives security which is based on respect for fundamental human rights and basic freedoms.''
And beyond establishing these integrated standards, the Final Act establishes a process for progress. It sets up a review procedure to measure performance against standards. And despite the doubts of the critics -- for the past 13 years, the signatory states have mustered the political will to keep on working and making progress.
me say that it seems particularly appropriate to me that the Final Act is
associated so closely with this city and this country. More than any other
diplomatic document, the Final Act speaks to the yearning that Finland's
longtime President, Urho Kekkonen,
spoke of more than a quarter century ago when he said, in his words: ``It's the
fervent hope of the Finnish people that barriers be lowered all over Europe and
that progress be made along the road of European unity.'' And he added that
this was, as he put it, ``for the good of
the Final Act and what we call the
am happy to note that since our representatives shook hands to seal this
agreement a year and a half ago, all 35 states have, by and large, honored both
the letter and the spirit of the
changes taking place in the Eastern countries of the continent go beyond
changes in their economic systems and greater openness in their military
activities. Changes have also begun to occur in the field of human rights, as
was called for in the Final Act. The rest of us would like to see the changes
that are being announced actually registered in the law and practice of our Eastern
partners and in the documents under negotiation in the
Much has been said about the human rights and humanitarian provisions in the Final Act and the failure of the Eastern bloc to honor them. Yet for all the bleak winds that have swept the plains of justice since that signing day in 1975, the accords have taken root in the conscience of humanity and grown in moral and, increasingly, in diplomatic authority. I believe that this is no accident. It reflects an increasing realization that the agenda of East-West relations must be comprehensive, that security and human rights must be advanced together or cannot truly be secured at all. But it also shows that the provisions in the Final Act reflect standards that are truly universal in their scope. The accords embody a fundamental truth, a truth that gathers strength with each passing season and that will not be denied -- the truth that, like the first Finnish settlers in America, all our ancient peoples find themselves today in a new world and that, as those early settlers discovered, the greatest creative and moral force in this new world, the greatest hope for survival and success, for peace and happiness, is human freedom.
Yes, freedom -- the right to speak, to print; the right to worship, to travel, to assemble; the right to be different, the right, as the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote, ``to step to the music of a different drummer'' -- this is freedom as most Europeans and Americans understand it and freedom as it is embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, yes, in the Helsinki accords. And far more than the locomotive or the automobile, the airplane or the rocket, more than radio, television, or the computer, this concept of liberty is the most distinct, peculiar, and powerful invention of the civilization we all share.
without this freedom there would have been no mechanical inventions, for
inventions are eccentricities. The men and women who create them are
visionaries, just like artists and writers. They see what others fail to see
and trust their insights when others don't. The same freedom that permits
literature and the arts to flourish; the same freedom that allows one to attend
church, synagogue, or mosque without apprehension; that same freedom from
oppression and supervision is the freedom that has given us, the peoples of
Western Europe and North America, our dynamism, our economic growth, and our
inventiveness. Together with
The house of democracy is a house whose doors are open to all. Because of it, because of the liberty and popular rule we've shared, today we also share a prosperity more widely distributed and extensive, a political order more tolerant and humane than has ever before been known on Earth. To see not simply the immediate but the historic importance of this, we should remember how far many of our nations have traveled and how desolate the future of freedom and democracy once seemed. For much of this century, the totalitarian temptation, in one form or another, has beckoned to mankind, also promising freedom, but of a different kind than the one we celebrate today. This concept of liberty is, as the Czechoslovak writer Milan Kundera has put it, ``the age-old dream of a world where everybody would live in harmony, united by a single common will and faith, without secrets from one another'' -- the freedom of imposed perfection.
Fifty, forty, even as recently as thirty years ago, the contest between this utopian concept of freedom on one hand and the democratic concept of freedom on the other seemed a close one. Promises of a perfect world lured many Western thinkers and millions of others besides. And many believed in the confident prediction of history's inevitable triumph. Well, few do today. Just as democratic freedom has proven itself incredibly fertile -- fertile not merely in a material sense but also in the abundance it has brought forth in the human spirit -- so, too, utopianism has proven brutal and barren.
Camus once predicted that, in his words, ``when
revolution in the name of power and of history becomes a murderous and immoderate
mechanism, a new rebellion is consecrated in the name of moderation of life.''
Isn't this exactly what we see happening across the mountains and plains of
just 2 days, I will meet in
like the Final Act, our agenda now includes human rights as an integral
component. We have developed our dialog and put in place new mechanisms for
discussion. The General Secretary has spoken often and forthrightly on the
problems confronting the
this is new and good. But at the same time, there is another list, defined not
by us but by the standards of the Helsinki Final Act and the sovereign choice
of all participants, including the
The Soviets talk about a ``common European home'' and define it largely in terms of geography. But what is it that cements the structure of clear purpose that all our nations pledged themselves to build by their signature of the Final Act? What is it but the belief in the inalienable rights and dignity of every single human being? What is it but a commitment to true pluralist democracy? What is it but a dedication to the universally understood democratic concept of liberty that evolved from the genius of European civilization? This body of values -- this is what marks, or should mark, the common European home.
Mr. Gorbachev has spoken of, in his words, ``the artificiality and temporariness of the bloc-to-bloc confrontation and the archaic nature of the `iron curtain.''' Well, I join him in this belief and welcome every sign that the Soviets and their allies are ready not only to embrace but to put into practice the values that unify and, indeed, define contemporary Western European civilization and its grateful American offspring.
Some 30 years ago -- another period of relative openness -- the Italian socialist Pietro Nenni, long a friend of the Soviet Union, warned that it was wrong to think that the relaxation could be permanent in, as he said, ``the absence of any system of judicial guarantees.'' And he added that only democracy and liberty could prevent reversal of the progress underway.
are a number of steps, which, if taken, would help ensure the deepening and
institutionalization of promising reforms. First, the Soviet leaders could
agree to tear down the Berlin Wall and all barriers between Eastern and
But beyond these particular steps, there's a deeper question. How can the countries of the East not only grant but guarantee the protection of rights? The thought and practice of centuries has pointed the way. As the French constitutional philosopher Montesquieu wrote more than 200 years ago, ``There is no liberty if the judiciary power be not separated'' from the other powers of government. And like the complete independence of the judiciary, popular control over those who make the laws provides a vital, practical guarantee of human rights. So does the secret ballot. So does the freedom of citizens to associate and act for political purposes or for free collective bargaining.
know that for the Eastern countries such steps are difficult, and some may say
it's unrealistic to call for them. Some said in 1975 that the standards set
forth in the Final Act were unrealistic, that the comprehensive agenda it
embodied was unrealistic. Some said, earlier in this decade, that calling for
global elimination of an entire class of
believe that realism is on our side when we say that peace and freedom can only
be achieved together, but that they can indeed be achieved together if we're
prepared to drive toward that goal. So did the leaders who met in this room to
sign the Final Act. They were visionaries of the most practical kind. In
shaping our policy toward the
We in the West will remain firm in our values, strong and vigilant in defense of our interests, ready to negotiate honestly for results of mutual and universal benefit. One lesson we drew again from the events leading up to the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty was that, in the world as it is today, peace truly does depend on Western strength and resolve. It is a lesson we will continue to heed.
But we're also prepared to work with the Soviets and their allies whenever they're ready to work with us. By strength we do not mean diktat, that is, an imposed settlement; we mean confident negotiation. The road ahead may be long, but not as long as our countries had before them 44 years ago when Finland's great President J.K. Paasikivi, told a nation that had shown the world uncommon courage in a harrowing time: ``A path rises up to the slope from the floor of the valley. At times the ascent is gradual, at other times steeper. But all the time one comes closer and closer to free, open spaces, above which God's ever brighter sky can be seen. The way up will be difficult, but every step will take us closer to open vistas.''
I believe that in Moscow Mr. Gorbachev and I can take another step toward a brighter future and a safer world. And I believe that, for the sake of all our ancient peoples, this new world must be a place both of democratic freedom and of peace. It must be a world in which the spirit of the Helsinki Final Act guides all our countries like a great beacon of hope to all mankind for ages to come.
Thank you, and God bless you. And bear with me now -- Onnea ja menestysta koko Suomen kansalle [Good luck and success to the entire Finnish people].
Note: The President spoke at in Finlandia Hall. In his opening remarks, he referred to President Mauno Koivisto, Speaker of the Parliament Matti Ahde, and Prime Minister Harri Holkeri.