Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

An unbreakable friendship: A look at past U.S. presidential addresses to Parliament

OTTAWA — United States President Joe Biden is set to deliver a speech to Parliament on Friday, becoming the ninth president to address Canadians in Ottawa. Here's a look back at past presidential speeches and the eras that defined them. Aug.
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses Parliament in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 29, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA — United States President Joe Biden is set to deliver a speech to Parliament on Friday, becoming the ninth president to address Canadians in Ottawa.

Here's a look back at past presidential speeches and the eras that defined them. 

Aug. 25, 1943 — Franklin Roosevelt 

In his speech, Roosevelt envisioned a future after the Second World War, where the Allies defeat the Nazis. He also celebrated a victory in Italy, weeks before the country surrendered to American, Canadian and British Allies in Sicily.

"There is a longing in the air. It is not a longing to go back to what they call 'the good old days.' I have distinct reservations as to how good 'the good old days' were. I would rather believe that we can achieve new and better days."

June 11, 1947 — Harry S. Truman

Truman addressed Parliament during the post-war era, when he pushed for the building of both countries' military defence and trade, adding that they jointly "face the future unafraid" as they uphold peace around the world.

"We know that in this trying period, between a war that is over and a peace that is not yet secure, the destitute and the oppressed of the Earth look chiefly to us for sustenance and support until they can again face life with self-confidence and self-reliance."

Nov. 14, 1953 — Dwight Eisenhower 

During the Cold War's atomic age, Eisenhower spoke about building Atlantic security, and promised "no Soviet wile or lure" would divide the Commonwealth, and nothing would corrupt the Canadian-American partnership. That year, the Soviet Union detonated its first hydrogen bomb amidst the nuclear arms race, and Queen Elizabeth II was crowned.

"Beyond the shadow of the atomic cloud, the horizon is bright with promise. No shadow can halt our advance together. For we, Canada and the United States, shall use carefully and wisely the God-given graces of faith and reason as we march together toward it--toward the horizon of a world where each man, each family, each nation lives at peace in a climate of freedom."

Eisenhower addressed Parliament again on June 26, 1959.

May 17, 1961 — John F. Kennedy 

Kennedy chose Canada as the first country to visit after becoming president because its borders "knows neither guns nor guerrillas." He spoke about strengthening NATO, and advancing the U.S. and Canada's common causes.

"Our opponents are watching to see if we in the West are divided. They take courage when we are. We must not let them be deceived or in doubt about our willingness to maintain our own freedom."

April 17, 1972 — Richard Nixon

Nixon's visit to Canada came midway between his visits to Beijing and to Moscow. While previous presidential addresses focused heavily on the unbroken friendships between Canada and the U.S., Nixon promoted his doctrine that each nation must have autonomous, independent policies.

"We must realize that we are friends not because there have been no problems between us, but because we have trusted one another enough to be candid about our problems — and because our candour has nourished our cooperation."

April 6, 1987 — Ronald Reagan 

In his second speech to Parliament (the first was in 1981), Reagan acknowledged the need for a treaty on acid rain, caused by emissions, and pushed for pollution-controlled technologies that would grow both nations economies.

"This is your Canada, and our continent. This is the chosen place in history our two nations occupy: a land where the mind and heart of man is free, a land of peace, a land where indeed anything is possible."

Feb. 23, 1995 — Bill Clinton

As voters in Quebec were set to vote on a referendum on sovereignty later that year, Clinton broke from American neutrality and urged Canadians to stay together as he expressed his opposition to Quebec's separation.

"In a world darkened by ethnic conflicts that tear nations apart, Canada stands as a model of how people of different cultures can live and work together in peace, prosperity and mutual respect."

Media reports at the time noted his statement brought almost all MPs to their feet, with the exception of the Bloc Québécois, which at that time served as the official Opposition.

June 29, 2016 — Barack Obama

During a year accentuated by terror attacks, and the United Kingdom's referendum to leave the European Union, known as Brexit, Obama addressed global uncertainty and the need for peaceful diplomacy. He said these are moments where the world looks to Canada and the U.S. as an example.

"In the end, it is this respect for the dignity of all people, especially the most vulnerable among us, that perhaps more than anything else binds our two countries together. Being Canadian, being American, is not about what we look like or where our families came from. It is about our commitment to a common creed."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2023. 

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press