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  Ronald Reagan - Speech on the Geneva Summit (November 21, 1985)
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ContributorThomas Walker 
Post Date ,  12:am
DescriptionMr. Speaker, Mr. President, Members of the Congress, distinguished guests, and my fellow Americans:

It's great to be home, and Nancy and I thank you for this wonderful homecoming. And before I go on, I want to say a personal thank you to Nancy. She was an outstanding Ambassador of good will for all of us. She didn't know I was going to say that. Mr. Speaker, Senator Dole, I want you to know that your statements of support here were greatly appreciated. You can't imagine how much it means in dealing with the Soviets to have the Congress, the allies, and the American people firmly behind you.

I guess you know that I have just come from Geneva and talks with General Secretary Gorbachev. In the past few days, the past 2 days, we spent over 15 hours in various meetings with the General Secretary and the members of his official party. And approximately 5 of those hours were talks between Mr. Gorbachev and myself, just one on one. That was the best part—our fireside summit. There will be, I know, a great deal of commentary and opinion as to what the meetings produced and what they were like. There were over 3,000 reporters in Geneva, so it's possible there will be 3,000 opinions on what happened. So, maybe it's the old broadcaster in me, but I decided to file my own report directly to you.

We met, as we had to meet. I called for a fresh start, and we made that start. I can't claim that we had a meeting of the minds on such fundamentals as ideology or national purpose, but we understand each other better, and that's a key to peace. I gained a better perspective; I feel he did, too. It was a constructive meeting; so constructive, in fact, that I look forward to welcoming Mr. Gorbachev to the United States next year. And I have accepted his invitation to go to Moscow the following year. We arranged that out in the parking lot. I found Mr. Gorbachev to be an energetic defender of Soviet policy. He was an eloquent speaker and a good listener.

Our subject matter was shaped by the facts of this century. These past 40 years have not been an easy time for the West or for the world. You know the facts; there is no need to recite the historical record. Suffice it to say that the United States cannot afford illusions about the nature of the U.S.S.R. We cannot assume that their ideology and purpose will change; this implies enduring competition. Our task is to assure that this competition remains peaceful. With all that divides us, we cannot afford to let confusion complicate things further. We must be clear with each other and direct. We must pay each other the tribute of candor.

When I took the oath of office for the first time, we began dealing with the Soviet Union in a way that was more realistic than in, say, the recent past. And so, in a very real sense, preparations for the summit started not months ago, but 5 years ago when, with the help of Congress, we began strengthening our economy, restoring our national will, and rebuilding our defenses and alliances. America is once again strong, and our strength has given us the ability to speak with confidence and see that no true opportunity to advance freedom and peace is lost. We must not now abandon policies that work. I need your continued support to keep America strong.

That is the history behind the Geneva summit, and that is the context in which it occurred. And may I add that we were especially eager that our meetings give a push to important talks already underway on reducing nuclear weapons. On this subject it would be foolish not to go the extra mile or, in this case, the extra 4,000 miles. We discussed the great issues of our time. I made clear before the first meeting that no question would be swept aside, no issue buried, just because either side found it uncomfortable or inconvenient. I brought these questions to the summit and put them before Mr. Gorbachev.
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