Historical Highlights

An Address by Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom to a Joint Meeting of Congress

July 17, 2003
An Address by Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom to a Joint Meeting of Congress Image courtesy of U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office In this image, Prime Minister Tony Blair addresses a Joint Meeting of Congress from the reading clerk's desk in the House Chamber.
On this date, Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom addressed a Joint Meeting of Congress. Blair had been invited on the occasion of Congress having awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal for his stalwart support of the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Mr. Speaker, my thrill on receiving this award was only a little diminished on being told that the first Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to George Washington for what Congress called ‘his wise and spirited conduct in getting rid of the British out of Boston,’” Blair joked, eliciting loud laughter from the floor and galleries. Blair’s primary message was to express British solidarity with the U.S. in the post-September 11th world. His speech came at a time when many in Britain and America questioned the intelligence that led to the pre-emptive military strike and occupation of Iraq. Blair, however, resolutely linked Iraq to the war on terrorism and against those states that supported terrorists. “We are not fighting for domination. We are not fighting for an American world . . .,” the Prime Minister said. “We are fighting for the inalienable right of humankind . . . to be free; free to raise a family in love and hope; free to earn a living and be rewarded by your own efforts; free not to bend your knee to any man in fear . . . That is what we are fighting for, and that is a battle worth fighting.” Blair became the first British national to receive the Congressional Gold Medal since 1969,when Congress bestowed the honor on Winston Churchill. Including Blair, five British Prime Ministers have addressed Joint Meetings. Winston Churchill spoke three times before Congress—twice during World War II and once during the Korean War.

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