Informal Exchange of Remarks With Reporters on the First Lady's Return From Peru.
MRS. NIXON. I bring grateful thanks from the people of Peru for the generous contributions of the American people.
The destruction there was much worse than what we read about. But I think that the emergency plan is working very well and now we have to help them rebuild.
Q. What were your impressions of the damage that had actually taken place there?
MRS. NIXON. It was the worst damage I had ever seen or even read about. Whole towns were leveled. Others were covered with mud. The people were destitute. There are 800,000 homeless at this moment, but they have a lot of courage and will, and they're going to recover, I know, with the help of all the people in this country and throughout the world.
THE PRESIDENT. I would like to add that I noted a piece by Helen Thomas of UPI [United Press International] to the effect that this was one of the most successful diplomatic trips that had ever been taken. I am very proud that Mrs. Nixon was able to represent the United States and particularly the American people in this.
I would also like to mention the fact that the Senate unanimously passed a resolution, just as the House has unanimously passed a resolution, expressing sympathy for the people of Peru.
We have divisions in the Senate on other matters and in the House, but all of the American people, through their elected representatives, share the deep feelings of sympathy for people in the American family in the country of Peru.
I am glad that Mrs. Nixon was able to carry that message directly to the people in the way that she did.
Q. Mr. President, the leaders of Peru were very happy that you sent your wife to be your personal emissary on this. How do you feel about that?
THE PRESIDENT. I think the only problem is that we now will have invitations for her to represent us in other places, too. One advantage of her going is that it avoids some of the political problems that we do have with other countries. But I think also it is important for us to remember that while nations have political differences, that people in various nations, when their children are injured or when their relatives or friends are killed, that people have a deep sense of affection and sympathy and concern for each other.
This was, in effect, people speaking to people, despite differences between governments. And I think we should have more of it. I hope that all of us can participate more in this kind of activity.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it was a very nice gesture on his part1 and I think it underscores the point that we often forget, that while there are differences between governments, there are some differences between the Government of the United States and the Government of Peru, that where people are concerned, particularly in this continent, it has been said we are one American family. When members of that family suffer in any kind of disaster, the whole heart of this continent, this hemisphere, goes out to the members of that family.
1The President was referring to President Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, who welcomed Mrs. Nixon at Lima airport on her arrival.
I think the fact that Mrs. Nixon was there, while it was true in her capacity as First Lady, but more in her capacity as an individual American expressing concern for the plight of people who had suffered a great disaster, that this touched the hearts of the people of Peru and it did so because it came from our hearts.
Note: The President and Mrs. Nixon spoke with reporters at 4:30 p.m. at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, Calif. A transcript of their remarks was posted for the press.
Richard Nixon, Informal Exchange of Remarks With Reporters on the First Lady's Return From Peru. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/239959