The following text is the speech President Clinton gave. Thank you to the United States Information Service and the Danish Foreign Ministry for their help in obtaining the exact text.
Mr. Lord Mayor
Mr. Prime Minister
Madame Vice Prime Minister
I am delighted to be the first sitting American President to visit Denmark. I had planned to come earlier, but I injured my leg. And I thank you for waiting until my leg healed -- so your first sitting American President could also be a standing President.
When I visited Copenhagen in 1969, I was one student among many traveling here. In all the years since, I never forgot the beauty of your city -- or the warmth of your people. It is good to be back.
We gather today at the end of what will long be remembered as a week in which a new era of promise was launched for all of Europe. And it is the bond between our two nations -- and the bond among all nations of the North Atlantic Alliance -- that brought us to this moment of hope and possibility at the dawn of a new century.
This week, in Madrid, we adapted NATO to meet the new security challenges of the 21st century. We invited three nations from Central Europe into NATO. We opened the door to all the region's new democracies. And we forged close ties with new partners throughout the continent.
Together, we have moved closer to realizing our 50-year-old dream: a Europe undivided, democratic and at peace for the first time in history. I thank the government and people of Denmark for your indispensable leadership.
America's unbroken ties with the Kingdom of Denmark are the oldest we have with any country in the world. And the American people have benefited beyond measure: In the stories of Danish writers from Karen Blixen to Peter Hoeg ... in the philosophy of Kierkegaard, who I am told lived on this very square...in the fables of Hans Christian Andersen, who teaches our children that emperors sometimes have no clothes -- but that ugly ducklings can turn into swans.
It is said that every Dane has a relative in America. Today, I can tell you, all Americans know they have a friend in Denmark.
Above all, I want to thank Denmark for the extraordinary example it has set...for being a force for good far beyond its numbers. Denmark may be a small nation, but you are a large reason why I believe we are on the verge of a great age of possibility.
First, Denmark has been a pioneer in showing the world how a nation can succeed both in creating a strong economy and a good society that provides opportunity for all its citizens and support to those in need, one that is bound together by shared values and respect for differences. We can all learn from your efforts to educate your people for a lifetime, giving them the tools necessary to make the most of their own lives in this time of global economic and technical.
Second, you have shown the power of a nation to act with compassion and humanity. During World War II, Denmark's rescue of its Jewish citizens from deportation and death camps set a standard for moral courage that will stir the hearts of men and women forever.
Denmark has always made overcoming barriers a national mission. A thousand years ago, your seafaring ancestors pushed back the boundaries of the known world. Just as Tycho Brahe mapped the structure of the heavens...and Niels Bohr charted the inner workings of the atom...the Danish People have time and again reached beyond borders that others could not.
Over the past half century, you have also looked past the borders of this prosperous land and made the freedom and well-being of others your own responsibility. Leading the global effort to lift people out of poverty. Standing up for human rights around the world. Standing against those who would practice terror against the innocent.
Denmark provides more peacekeepers proportionally than any other nation. You were among the first to heed Bosnia's call. Despite the loss of brave Danish soldiers while the war raged, you have never wavered. For your unshakable commitment to peace - and for all you do - I have come here to say on behalf of the American people:
Now, we must draw on your example to finish the work of overcoming one of the greatest barriers of our time - the division of Europe. And this week has shown we can do it, not by the force of arms but by the power of peace.
This week, we have seen the face of this new Europe.
In Madrid, during our NATO Summit, we saw 44 countries from all corners of this continent come together to forge a common future of freedom and security. We saw the most successful defensive alliance in history reach out to new members and extend its hand to Ukraine and Russia - now our partners in building lasting stability.
We saw nations large and small... new democracies and established ones... joined to clear away the debris of old blocs of nations and build new bonds of partnership.
In Poland -- one of the three nations we invited to join our alliance -- we saw the joy of a people at last secure in their freedom and sure of their place in Europe. People who seized their moment and changed the course of their history and who now sound ready to guarantee a future of freedom to others.
Yesterday in Bukarest, Romania a nation we believe will soon be ready to join our alliance we saw the faces of a people -- over 100,000 of them -- who freed themselves from yesterday's tyranny and who are just as determined to seize the promise of tomorrow.
I thank Denmark for rising to this moment. Especially I thank you for reaching out to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, for helping them to fortify their economies, to strengthen their democracies to establish their Baltic batallion and to take their place in the new Europe.
By bridging the expanse of the Baltic Sea you helped close a great gap in history. Throughout the nations of our alliance there is a Europe of visionary leaders with a profound sense of mission, and a unity some said could not be sustained. NATO has succeeded beyond any expectations. Today America is grateful to our 15 remarkable allies for their perseverance and friendship and their leadership in turning the bloodiest continent in the 20th century into a continent free, undivided, at peace and full of hope for the young people in this audience and far beyond this audience and far beyond these borders and in the 21st century.
Today I ask all of you assembled here, throughout this land, across Europe and in America - let us all keep freedom's bright light and advance the work of the extraordinary Atlantic community. Let us bring down the barriers to a better future for all people on this continent. Let us close history's divide. Let us create a 21st century of opportunity, security, peace and freedom for the children of Denmark, Europe and the United States. It can be the greatest time in all human history.
We must follow your past example into the future.
Thank you and God bless you.
President Clinton came back to visit Copenhagen on May 11th. 2006 to deliver a speech at a business conference. This time he had time and opportunity to see The Little Mermaid, have an ice cone and do some shopping - reportedly a present to his wife, Hillary Clinton.
Copyright © (not the speech) Hans-Henrik T. Ohlsen 1996-2008