Queen Elizabeth II, who made history Thursday by becoming the first British monarch to address a joint session of Congress, opened her remarks by poking fun at herself and ended with a sure-fire crowd pleaser: “May God Bless America.”
She received three standing ovations and was interrupted by applause several more times during a 15-minute speech.
The diminutive queen began with a reference to the fact that only the brim of her purple-and-white hat was visible to television audiences the previous day during the White House welcoming ceremony because her face was hidden by microphones.
“I do hope you can see me today from where you are,” she said in a clipped accent, drawing a roar of laughter and standing applause for her self-deprecating humor.
Attired in a peach hat and dress for her congressional appearance, the queen spoke from the same podium that American presidents use for addressing members of the House and Senate. Her husband, Prince Philip, sat by her side.
Although she began on a humorous note, her speech touched on serious themes of self-government and international cooperation, including the experience of the Persian Gulf War, in which British and American soldiers fought together.
“I salute the outstanding leadership of your President and the courage and prowess of the armed forces of the United States,” she said. “I know the servicemen and women of Britain, and all the members of the coalition, were proud to act in a just cause alongside their American comrades.”
Her remarks--which by tradition reflect the views of the presiding government--acknowledged that the postwar flight of Kurdish refugees fearing Iraqi repression is not what the coalition had in mind when the war began.
“Unfortunately, experience shows that great enterprises seldom end with a tidy and satisfactory flourish,” she said. “Together, we are doing our best to re-establish peace and civil order in the region and to help those members of ethnic and religious minorities who continue to suffer through no fault of their own.
“If we succeed, our military success will have achieved its true objective.”
She also touched on the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States, noting that her country hopes to be part of a unified Europe that would work in harmony with the United States.
“All our history in this and earlier centuries underlines the basic point that the best progress is made when Europeans and Americans act in concert,” she said. “We must not allow ourselves to be enticed into a form of continental insularity.”