MR. PRESIDENT, it is wonderful to have you and Mrs. Leone and your three sons with us this evening. As I said this morning, at the time you came and joined us, the United States has a great debt of gratitude and a great sense of friendship for Italy because of the many, many people in this United States who have an ancestral background from Italy.
As I read and listen and look around our country, some 10 percent of our people have a background from Italy. We have superb artists, we have outstanding individuals in science, we have some very renowned athletes, we have many, many people in public life who have had a background from your country. And we are proud of them and their contributions to our country.
But I think, Mr. President, the broadest relationship that we have is what Italy has contributed to the United States, without personal identification, in the field--in those areas that one could describe as grace, humanity, tolerance, and an awareness of beauty.
We have a great American writer by the name of Mark Twain who once wrote--and he wasn't very complimentary to foreigners--but in one of his nicer moments, he wrote: The Creator made Italy from the designs of Michelangelo. And that was a nice comment. It was probably the best he ever made about any foreigners.
But to be serious, Mr. President, in all of the time that I had the privilege of serving in the Congress, the United States and Italy were building together. We were building in the process of reconstruction following the war. We were building in the process of Europe as a whole in the reconstruction period.
This 25-year span led, of course, to our alliance, where we have developed a friendship and an agreement for diplomatic, military, economic, and cultural expansion and reciprocity.
We dealt with Italy on a personal basis, and we have worked together in our relationships with our allies in Western Europe. And the net result has been a better relationship between us as people and our Governments on behalf of our people.
But, Mr. President, it was a pleasure for me to meet you this morning and to be reassured of your willingness to talk in a frank and candid way about our mutual problems. And from one who spent a good share of his life in the political arena in the United States, I was greatly impressed with your wise statesmanship and your great knowledge of the problems in Europe and the rest of the world.
And so, it was a privilege and a pleasure for me to meet you and to discuss these matters with you and to help in the process of building a better relationship between Italy and the United States.
And if I might, may I ask all of you to stand and join with me in a toast to the President of the Republic of Italy.