Bouquets of tulips to Queen Beatrix as she visits the United States in celebration of 200 years of Dutch-American friendship. There are, to be sure, some strains in those relations at the moment. But the issues -- nuclear policy , cruise missiles, detente -- are of the kind good friends can legitimately argue about without disturbing the underlying strong alliance. The American people will surely regard this bicentennial as an opportunity to recall just how strong those bonds are.
They will think back to colonial times when the great Dutch traders sailed up America's rivers and founded forts and settlements, including New Amsterdam, now New York City, and the deep cultural and religious imprint which Dutch immigrants made in the new world. They will remember the revolutionary years when Holland, like France, sided against England and gave early recognition to the new United States of America -- an act that was later to cost it several colonies.
We, too, pause to reflect on the enormous contribution which the Netherlands, one of the tiniest countries of Europe, has made to civilization: in its long tradition of humanism, tolerance, and love of freedom; its commercial prowess; its artistic genius; its courageous mastery of the encroaching sea; its intellectual vigor that persists to this day.And on such colossal figures of Dutch history as Erasmus, the great scholar who edited the first Greek text of the New Testament and laid the basis for modern Biblical criticism.
Nor are the ties that bind the US and Holland only cultural and historical. Most Americans probably do not realize that today the Netherlands is America's third largest trade partner in Europe, that Dutch investment accounts for a quarter of all direct foreign investment in the United States, and that several of the world's largest multinational companies have a Dutch component.
So may Americans be aware that Holland spells more than quaint windmills, wooden shoes, and Edam cheese -- and reach out to the royal Dutch visitors with warm gratitude for what their nation has meant to the United States and the world.