My fellow Presidents:
I am glad that we have the opportunity of meeting together before the formal sessions of this conference begin. For your spirit and cooperation should inspire all the 19 nations gathered here. It should be the standard and the meaning of what we do here.
It is easy to speak of "cooperation and partnership"--of "cooperation" and "unity." Those words will be used many times during the next 2 days. But they will remain only words--only ideals--unless we take the actions that will give them meaning and power.
You have been taking those actions:
--In building the great inter-American highway, and
--In developing a common market.
We have helped you in both, although the initiative and determination were yours. We want to move on to help you connect your highway with South America by closing the Darien Gap.
We have supported you as you used the common market to increase trade between yourselves fivefold. I was pleased to sign the loan, at the White House in 1965, that helped to make the promise of integration a reality.
We rejoice in the promise and the dedication of Central America.
We are sorry that the illness of former President Somoza has kept President Guerrero of Nicaragua from our midst. Our thoughts are with him.
Gentlemen, I propose a toast to the great example of Central America. May the practical example you have given us become the hallmark of this conference.