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Remarks on Accepting a Gift From the People of Sri Lanka

June 18, 1984

President Jayewardene. Mr. President Reagan, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Government, the people of Sri Lanka, Mrs. Jayewardene, and myself, I have great happiness in presenting to President Reagan and Mrs. Reagan and the people of the United States of America, a friendly country, small baby elephant.

It's a female. Its name is Jayathu, meaning "Victory." The elephant is my party symbol. And it's a very intelligent kind of animal, never forgets a wrong. It always remembers a right done to it.

May it live long in your country. May it, in its own way, help your people. Thank you.

President Reagan. Mr. President, I am exceptionally pleased to make the acquaintance of our new friend am I pronouncing it right?—Jayathu. And Jayathu, as you've been told, means victory. And I know that it is the symbol of your own political party, and as you say, it is the symbol of our Republican Party. And I appreciate, in view of her name, I appreciate your fine sense of timing. [Laughter]

I understand now that Jayathu, until now, has lived in the baby elephant orphanage in the pleasant hill country of Sri Lanka. And her survival is testimony to the traditional respect which your people have for their environment and for wildlife. We Americans admire you and your government's dedication to preserve God's gifts of nature.

And we like to think in the United States that the elephant is an animal with a good memory. Now, Jayathu is very young and can look forward to a long and happy life here in Washington where she will have a home in our National Zoo. And she will continue to remind us of the friendship between the people of Sri Lanka and the people of the United States.

And I hope to have a little more time to be on hand to watch her grow. [Laughter]

President Jayewardene. Undressing, Jayathu, is not a habit to be followed. [Laughter]

Reporter. He won't work for peanuts, you know. [Laughter]

President Reagan. Maybe the zoo will let her come to the ranch and visit a few times. [Laughter]

Q. So cute.

Q. How old will she get to be?

President Jayewardene. 18 months.

Q. How old will she get?

President Jayewardene. Well, can live to my age—76. [Laughter]

Q. 76? Are you really 76?

President Jayewardene. I think so.

Q. He's 73, you know.

Q. How big will she get?

President Jayewardene. Well—[indicating size]—

Q. I mean, how big will she grow?

President Jayewardene. Well, about this size.

Q. Oh, really?

President Jayewardene. 14 feet.

Q. Elephants still do work in your country?

President Jayewardene. Oh, yes, They work for their living.

Q. Bring your friend over, Mr. President. [Laughter]

Q. Bring your friend over, Jayathu.

Q. Can we meet her?

President Jayewardene. Yes, why not. Come, come.

Q. Hello, Jayathu. Hello.

Q. Can I touch her?

President Jayewardene. Oh, yes.

Q. He may touch you.

Q. Hello, baby.

Q. Who's going to win the election here this fall? [Laughter]

Q. Is this a good omen for the party?

President Reagan. Well, of course. [Laughter] She has lots of time to grow, be around.

President Jayewardene. Everything he does with the trunk. He smells, he feels.

Q. Will that cut the grass? [Laughter]

President Reagan. No, I think the zoo will probably handle that. [Laughter] That trunk business is really pulling to see if there's something in your hand. [Laughter]

Note: President Reagan spoke at 11:30 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks on Accepting a Gift From the People of Sri Lanka Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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