Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress of Brazil

February 24, 1960

Mr. President, Members of the Congress, fellow citizens of the New World, ladies and gentlemen:

Mr. President, I think you must understand how deeply touched I am by the scene which here before me spreads. I see here represented in the members of this body the spirit, the intellect, and the character of the great Brazilian nation, a nation which is surging forward to heights as yet unimagined, even by ourselves.

Beyond this, I am grateful for the generous statements directed to my country and to me by those who have preceded me today. I am proud that I have been invited the second time by the representative body of Brazil to meet with them for a brief period, and I am more proud of the fact that your spokesmen have greeted me and my country as a country and as an individual that with them work to support and forward the priceless values that make men free and fight those influences which tend or would want to regiment or enslave them.

It is, then, with a sense of singular honor that I come before you, the elected representatives of the people of the United States of Brazil.

But the warm glow of personal pleasure is tempered by the realization that we share awesome responsibilities which this profoundly moving occasion prompts me to discuss with you.

If the burdens of my office permitted, I would travel to the largest cities and the remotest villages of all the Americas, to speak of these responsibilities and of how, together, we may possibly bear them successfully. Since I cannot do this., I trust that what I say here will be accepted by the governments and peoples of all the Western Hemisphere nations as an expression of hope from the millions of my country to the millions who constitute Latin America.

It is fitting, I think, that I should do this here, at the beginning of my present journey, for you of Brazil and we of the United States of America have always worked together for the spiritual unity and material advancement of the hemisphere. If it were physically possible for us to do so, I am sure we would speak with a single voice to all our neighbors of this vast continent.

Not long ago, you and we shared anxieties, suffering, and tragedy in an agony of worldwide war. Many of your families, as of ours, paid a heavy price in order that the rule of law and moral suasion might replace the rule of naked force. To pay homage to the gallant Brazilian soldiers, airmen, and sailors who fought side by side with others of the free world I came here 14 years ago. I know that your brave men, who knew the horrors of war, pray with me now, that their children and their children's children will find a better way--so that in the future the deep, abiding desires of humanity will prevail over the arrogance and ambitions of misguided or willful leaders; that consultations will replace coercion; that mutual understanding will eliminate threat and crude accusation; that the earth, casting aside the sterile use of resources for arms, will yield its rich bounty to all who are willing to work in freedom.

I am confident that I shall not be thought presumptuous in suggesting that we--our two nations--could speak with a single voice. For our basic ideas have a common inspiration: man, in his sonship under God, is endowed with dignity, entitled to equality in all human and political relations, and destined, through the employment of consecrated intelligence, to shape a world .harmonious with basic moral law. Adhering to these beliefs, we have established similar governmental systems; we have constantly maintained friendly relations unmarred by a single explosive incident; and we have worked together to establish and strengthen the Organization of American States, the United Nations, and other cooperative international organizations.

We of the United States admire Brazil for its enviable record of constructive leadership in hemisphere and world affairs, and we salute your statesmen who have played decisive parts in critical international situations, even some involving the United States and one or more of our sister Republics.

Speaking with one voice, then--your country and mine--we would say, I know, that the first responsibility of leadership in any nation is to work for the welfare of its own people, its own land. We would emphasize that heavy reliance must be placed upon the creative talents of the people themselves, with government a helpful partner. While we recognize that success or failure in the whole domestic enterprise is largely a nation's own responsibility, we would look for any needed outside temporary assistance to speed our development. Certainly my country did this from its establishment as a free nation until late in the nineteenth century. And in receiving and using these honors, our sovereignty was not violated--nor was our self-reliance diminished.

You now are experiencing, primarily due to your own persistent labors, a remarkable industrial and economic growth. Yesterday, on what was once a remote plateau, I saw your growth revealed in the stone and steel of an emerging and magnificent new capital--a symbol of the vision and sturdy confidence which characterize modern Brazil. This surging growth is evident everywhere in this seaport city of Rio, and tomorrow I shall see what I am told is the most rapidly growing city in the world-Sao Paulo.

We of the United States are proud that our public and private agencies have responded to the best of their ability to your requests for temporary assistance. United States public and private investments and loans in Brazil now total about two and a half billion dollars. To this could be added the loans of international financial agencies which obtain the major part of their funds from the United States.

These are mighty, but only supplemental aids. The time will come when Brazil, through its own efforts, will experience both the benefits and the complexities of being a creditor nation, and others will be seeking your help--a seeking which I know will not be unrewarded.

Our second responsibility is to all our good neighbors of this hemisphere.

We, Brazil and the United States, hold the common, burning conviction that relations among these sister nations must be characterized by mutual respect, juridical equality, independence, respect for each human being, regardless of his race, creed, or color, and a willingness to help one another promote the well-being of all our peoples.

Neither of us covets one acre of land from another. We do not wish to prosper at another's expense. We do not wish to impose our particular form of democracy upon another. Rather, fervently and persistently, while avoiding all forms of intervention, we proclaim our hope that the nations of the hemisphere will each, according to its own genius and aspirations, develop and sustain free government. We pray that all of us will reject cruel tyranny, for tyranny is, in simple essence, the outright denial of the teachings of Christ. May each of us in every appropriate way, and especially by example, work for the strengthening of democratic institutions.

You of Brazil have constantly shown your desire for the Americas to be a community of free democratic nations, united by the common ideal of hemispheric cooperation and solidarity. You, like we, insist upon freedom of choice for every country. And you, like we, aspire to the day when poverty, hunger, illiteracy, and discrimination in all forms will become relics of the past.

In proposing Operation Pan America, Brazil has taken an important initiative for the democratic development of the entire hemisphere. The high purpose of this imaginative proposal of your distinguished President-to attack the problem of underdevelopment by cooperative effort-is one which my government endorses. It is for this reason that we have joined with Brazil in requesting an early meeting of the Committee of Nine; this Committee should accelerate the formulation of the specific projects needed to translate this plan into a working reality.

Permit me here to renew a pledge, which I have made repeatedly: the United States itself stands ready, and will continue to urge other free nations to be ready to join in a gigantic effort: to devote substantial portions of the savings made possible by disarmament to vast constructive programs of peaceful development. We embrace this idea despite the fact that we are now carrying such heavy burdens throughout the world that our own internal and external financial situation requires great caution in management--and incidentally, this aid includes significant volumes of public and private capital and technical assistance to Latin America.

Pending that achievement, I assure you that my government, while honoring its commitments outside this hemisphere is in no mood to allow its special responsibilities among the American States to go by default. Indeed, these commitments and responsibilities are part and parcel of the same problem--preserving the strength and unity of the free world.

This brings me to the third responsibility which we may speak of in common voice--that which involves the larger world.

This is truly a time of fateful decision. Nations now possess power so terrible that mutual annihilation would be the only result of general physical conflict. War is now utterly preposterous. In nearly every generation the fields of earth have been stained with blood. Now, war would not yield blood--only a great emptiness for the combatants, and the threat of death from the skies for all who inhabit the earth. To strive ceaselessly, honestly, and effectively for peace is today the imperative responsibility of every statesman--of yours, of ours, of all countries.

At the same moment of this great crisis, we face anew decisions involving tyranny or freedom, totalitarianism or democracy. Our shared view on this issue is so eloquent and so clear that any words of mine would not be enlightening.

And, perhaps inseparable from the decision of freedom or slavery, we face the philosophic issue which today brings fear, misgiving, and mistrust to mankind. In contrast to our adherence to a philosophy of common sonship, of human dignity, and of moral law, millions now live in an environment permeated with a philosophy which denies the existence of God. That doctrine insists that any means justifies the end sought by the rulers of the state, calls Christianity the "sigh of the oppressed," and, in short, seeks to return mankind to the age-old fatalistic concept of the omnipotent state and omnipotent fate.

You of Brazil and we of my country do not say that this philosophy shall not be held; that peoples may not return to that unenlightened system of tyranny, if they so wish. We would feel a great sorrow for them, but we would respect their right to choose such a system. Here is the key to our policy--the right to choose. Human beings everywhere, simply as an inalienable right of birth, should have freedom to choose their guiding philosophy, their form of government, their methods of progress.

But we--you of Brazil and we of the United States--would consider it intervention in the internal affairs of an American State if any power, whether by invasion, coercion, or subversion, succeeded in denying freedom of choice to the people of any of our sister Republics.

To work throughout the world for a guaranteed peace, free of all outside interference, and for rising levels of human well-being, in justice and in freedom--this is the greatest of the responsibilities which you of Brazil and we of the United States now share.

It is to confer with your distinguished President and his colleagues about these bilateral but hemispheric and global problems that I am making my brief trip to Brazil and your neighbors in this great Southland.

May God cast his grace upon us and guide us in this noble purpose.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 4:38 p.m. at the Tiradentes Palace in Rio de Janeiro. His opening words "Mr. President" referred to Vice President Joao Goulart.

Operation Pan America was proposed by Brazil in a memorandum dated August 9, 1958, following the exchange of messages between Presidents Eisenhower and Kubitschek in May and June of that year (see 1958 volume, this series, Item 133). The memorandum of August 9, 1958, is published in Operacion Panamericana, Complicacion de Documentos II (Presidencia de la Republica, Servicio de Documentacion, Rio de Janeiro, 1958).

The Committee of Nine, to which the President referred, is a subcommittee of the Special Committee of the Council of the Organization of American States to Study the Formulation of New Measures for Economic Cooperation (Committee of 21).

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress of Brazil Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235007

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