THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Ambassador and Senator Abourezk, Congresswoman Oakar, Congressman Toby Moffett, and distinguished members of the American Lebanese community:
This afternoon we are participating in a ceremony that has both enjoyable connotations and, I think, very strong historical and symbolic significance. In the Bible, the Cedars of Lebanon are mentioned more than 60 times, and there are on the hills near Beirut trees that have been living there for more than 2,500 years, symbols of beauty and strength of an ancient and proud heritage and of the symbolism of peace and a commitment to historical development.
Since 1943, Lebanon, as an independent nation, has been a good exemplification for democracy in the finest aspects of that form of government which we share.
The tree that we plant today is one of the Cedars of Lebanon, and it will be here on the historic White House grounds, a constant reminder of these attributes which I've just described, and also of the friendship that binds our country with the nation of Lebanon.
There are many people who live in the United States whose families still live in Lebanon and who have maintained their close kinship and friendship there. I look on Lebanon with a heart filled with gratitude and appreciation, friendship, and also deep sorrow and concern.
In recent months and in recent years, I don't know of any nation that has suffered more in an unwarranted, undeserved way than has Lebanon and her people. Just in recent weeks, hundreds of Lebanese have been killed, and perhaps 200,000 made homeless. The heart and the concern of the world go out to the people of Lebanon.
We hope and we pray that soon peace can come to that fine and noble and beleaguered and suffering land and that the brave people there, who have set an example for progress in the Middle East, can have peace restored to their country. Hardly a city or town or hamlet or family exists in Lebanon that hasn't suffered recently and very deeply, and I'm very grateful that these Lebanese Americans assembled around me have honored the people of the United States and the White House grounds itself by this gift of this Cedar of Lebanon tree.
Thank you all on behalf of our country. And I'm dedicated, through reminder of this gift and through my own knowledge and commitment, to seeing that the ties that have been of such great importance to us in the past will be even stronger in the future—the friendship between the people of Lebanon and the people of the United States.
Thank you very much.
PAUL A. CORE. Mr. President, responding on behalf of the American Lebanese League and the total American Lebanese community in this country is our distinguished national chairman, Dr. Elias Saadi.
DR. SAADI. Mr. President, distinguished assembly:
An old Arabic saying goes that the hand of God rests on the heart of the King. Today, by planting this Cedar of Lebanon, you have touched our hearts, sir, our hearts so heavily burdened with agony of the Lebanese people, and, Mr. President, you have consoled us. By this generous and symbolic act, you have signaled to the world your concern.
This cedar, which is so much celebrated in Scripture, has become a symbol of strength and timelessness. Today this cedar, which provides so much inspiration to us as Americans, is a symbol of hope to free people everywhere. We plant this tree in the fertile soil of our land and hope that it takes root in its adopted country as did our forefathers. Let it be a constant reminder of their success in becoming part of the American dream. Let it be a constant remembrance of the traditional ties between the United States and Lebanon, and let it be a living memorial that righteousness and justice in the pursuit of human rights are indeed enduring virtues.
Today, Mr. President, the Lebanese people are struggling to preserve their democracy and their freedom and retain a society of genuine pluralism. As a result, their human rights have been violated in a serious and significant way.
We express our gratitude to you, Mr. President, for your leadership in the action taken by the United Nations in forming the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL. We hope this will lead and expect it to lead to the ability of Lebanon to be the sole authority within its borders. We look to you, Mr. President, for continued leadership for a stable Lebanon, which we believe is the key to Middle East peace.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.