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Monrovia, Liberia Remarks of President Carter and President William R. Tolbert, Jr., at the Welcoming Ceremony

April 03, 1978

PRESIDENT TOLBERT. Mr. President, Mrs. Carter, Amy, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, friends:

Just over 30 years ago, Mr. President, on January 27, 1943, another American President transited this land in connection with the victorious Allied effort of World War II.

Liberia's President Edwin James Barclay received President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at that time on an asphalt airstrip of 7,000 feet. In the intervening years, United States-Liberia cooperation has here afforded one of the most modern and expanding civil aviation facilities in West Africa, spanning a reinforced 11,000 feet.

And today, we are deeply honored to pay homage to America's first third-century President who has come in the larger pursuit of permanent peace, of human rights, and of economic justice in our one world; who has come in furtherance of continuing friendship and closer cooperation between the United States of America and the Republic of Liberia.

Standing here beneath the sunny expanse of Africa's skies, we most heartily salute you, Mr. President, Mrs. Carter, Amy, and members of your suite, and with intense warmth, embracingly welcome you on behalf of Mrs. Tolbert, our family, the Government and people of Liberia, to this land of love and liberty by God's command.

Mr. President, by your sincere leadership you are restoring to a weary world, particularly in the troubled Middle East and in Africa, refreshing new hopes of enterprise and prosperity, of liberty and morality.

By your profound example, mankind is beginning to feel again, as Thomas Paine once articulated, I quote, "the power of America to create a happy world," and may I add, free from human oppression, free from human distinction.

By your vision and love, peoples and nations can once more rejoice that the United States still cares, that its actions resound of lasting verities.

Upon this continent where the majority of least developed countries can be found, nature's fury often fuels unyielding economic frustrations upon its people. On this continent where persist heinous repression and racism, hatred and injustice, human beings appealingly demand justice against human cruelty, against brutal violence, and against human indignity.

On this continent of contemporary intrigue and intransigence, bloody assassinations and fracticidal conflicts, armed proxy interventions and potential bigpower confrontations tend to postpone freedom and justice and the enjoyment of human rights. These further imperil the solemn pursuit of international peace and security.

In Africa, yea the world, we can sense through your dynamic moral leadership fresh evidences of positive change. This new momentum to enhance mankind was manifested again by your outstanding for. eign policy address on Africa, recently delivered in Lagos, Nigeria, for which we heartily commend you. And we earnestly hope that all conditions, both political and economic, which contribute to permanent global reconciliation and lasting partnerships can be sturdily established in the coming years.

In 1943, Liberia stood with America, Mr. President, an unswerving friend and selfless ally, a developing democracy. We are confident today that with closer cooperation and more fulfilling creative United States policies and programs, Liberia can become a more brilliant star of democratic ideals in Africa, a more convincing showpiece of humanistic capitalism and progressive development.

Offering once more our hands in hearty welcome to you, Mr. President, Mrs. Carter, and your entourage, we affirm and pledge our best efforts with you in the global campaign of extending the frontiers of human liberty and advancing the principles of genuine peace and stability.

We will remain one with you, Mr. President, in surmounting the tyranny of energy and in healing the injuries of economic uncertainties.

Ever steadfastly, we pledge our total resources with you in securing the victory we courageously seek over inequity and injustice, over ignorance, disease, and poverty, to the lasting benefit of our children's children and even endless future generations, throughout this our one world.

May Almighty God bless our endeavors and hasteningly bring peace to mankind everywhere.

PRESIDENT CARTER. President Tolbert, distinguished officials of the Liberian Government, members of the diplomatic corps, and America's valued and dear friends, the people of Liberia:

I am very happy to be here in Liberia, a country which is one of America's oldest friends, and to arrive at this historic airfield. During the Second World War, as President Tolbert has described, when it was known simply as Roberts Field, it was a vital link in the supply line to Europe and to North Africa in our common fight for freedom.

Now, reborn as Roberts International Airport, with a new terminal recently opened, it symbolizes the pride, the achievements, and the great potential of your nation.

Liberia was born out of mankind's eternal desire for freedom, and you have achieved it here. The free black people who came from America to this beautiful coastline in the 19th century were determined to build a society which reflected the dignity in their souls and their hope in their hearts. They joined here in Liberia with others who longed for a better life. These two streams united to form the first independent republic in Africa.

During the past century of colonialism, your independence was preserved. And now you can look back with pride on 130 years of uninterrupted independence and freedom, which gives Liberia a respected senior status among the nations of this continent.

Franklin Roosevelt did stop here at the airport in 1943 to meet with President Barclay, but this is the first official state visit of an American President, and it is long overdue. The bonds between our two countries are too strong for such a long period ever to elapse again.

We have been very grateful that you have added to the pleasure and the honor I feel in arriving here by declaring today a national holiday. It's a national holiday in my heart, as well.

Our friendly relationship is of great mutual advantage and exists on many levels—in the intertwining of our histories, in the democratic tradition established in our own Constitutions, and in the similarity in our forms of government. It exists in education, in trade, and religion. It was perhaps most meaningful in what President Tolbert has called the "war against ignorance, disease, and poverty."

The American people are proud to join Liberians in this effort through bilateral relationships between our two countries and in multilateral programs involving many countries. Our two Governments agree that these should be directed toward improving the basic conditions of life for those who most need help.

In coming to Liberia, I am reaffirming a friendship that is very old, but I am also drawing to a close a series of visits that reflect a world that is new. Less than three decades from now, four-fifths of all the world's people will live in Africa, Asia, and Latin America—in the sorts of developing nations that I have visited this year.

Only three decades ago, many nations of these continents were largely colonies of foreign powers. Their rise to independence means a world in which we must treat each other as equals. And one of the purposes of these trips has been to demonstrate the genuine respect my Nation feels for its partners around the world and our opposition to the continuation or reestablishment of colonialism in any form whatsoever.

The world economy has changed, bringing the hope of economic improvement and justice to millions and making each of us far more dependent than ever before on the cooperation of our neighbors.

If we create a world economy of fairness and growth, our mutual well-being will be ensured. If we are shortsighted and let inequality, selfishness, and injustice persist, all of us will suffer.

Even the ideas that motivate mankind have been changing. The traditional rivalry between East and West continues, even as we try to reduce the competition and expand the areas of potential cooperation.

But other visions, those of national identity, of self-determination, of racial equality, of the individual rights of all human beings, rise more and more to dominate the human horizon.

It is indeed a new world, and I would like to reemphasize briefly the three themes that dominate our vision of this new age.

The first is economic justice, both among the nations of the world and for those within each nation who now lack the material requirements for a decent life.

Economic justice imposes a special obligation on nations like my own, which have resources to share with the rest of the world. This is a responsibility we intend to honor. But sustaining the world economy is ultimately a shared responsibility in which every nation must do its part.

The second element is a respect for human rights—the right to be treated properly by one's own government, to be able to participate in the decisions that affect one's own life, to have the basic human requirements of food, shelter, health, and education.

If there is any development that has heartened me in my time as President, it is the extent to which the cause of human rights has taken its rightful place on the agenda and in the conscience of the world. This is a cause that the United States and Liberia are proud to claim as our birthright. But we know that it is now spreading, not because of our efforts but because the times demand it.

The third element on which all our other hopes eventually depend is a search for peace.

My Nation has now, as it has had for the last 30 years, a responsibility to work constantly for peace with its powerful rivals. But in this new age, the search for peace leads in other directions as well. It means relying on mutual conciliation, negotiation, discussion of even the most intractable and difficult international issues.

In this area your own President Tolbert's philosophy of conciliation and moderation has been an outstanding example. It marks him as a man with a profound understanding of human nature and a firm commitment to preventing potential conflicts through wise and just agreements.

We share with you a commitment to an Africa that is at peace, an Africa free from colonialism, an Africa free from racism, an Africa free from military interference by outside nations, and an Africa free from the inevitable conflicts that arise when the integrity of national boundaries is not respected.

And the search for peace means anticipating changes that must inevitably come, such as those in southern Africa, so that they can come peacefully, rather than with their pent-up tensions erupting into violence.

These are the goals America is pursuing, and I am looking forward to discussing them with one of Africa's leading statesmen, your own President Tolbert.

His idealism, his determination, and his energy have won widespread admiration in Africa, in America, and around the world. His recent statesman-like sponsorship of the reconciliation summit gathering of West African heads of state, here in Monrovia, has helped to inaugurate a new era of cooperation among these nations for the good of all.

Next year he will be hosting, and will become a major leader of, the Organization of African Unity here in Monrovia. He has worked tirelessly for national self-determination, racial justice, and a better life for all the people of the African Continent.

As we go now together to Monrovia, we will in a sense close the circle that has opened between our people more than a century and half ago.

On behalf of the people of the great Nation of the United States, I would like to say to the people of the great nation of Liberia, this is a journey which is a privilege for me to make.

Thank you very much.

Note: The exchange began at 11:35 a.m. at Roberts International Airport.

Jimmy Carter, Monrovia, Liberia Remarks of President Carter and President William R. Tolbert, Jr., at the Welcoming Ceremony Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244874

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