John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks at El Bosque Housing Project Near San Jose.

March 19, 1963

Mr. President, Mr. Minister, Ambassador, our friends from Costa Rica:

We celebrate here today a great victory, and that is a victory for the human spirit, for these houses, these medical units, these books, are today freeing men and women from centuries of bondage and poverty which has imprisoned their capacity, their happiness and their future. And I am proud, as a citizen of the United States, to be here in Costa Rica taking part in this great effort.

As a citizen of a sister Republic, as a strong believer in the democratic faith, we take pride in the democracy of this Republic and the other Republics of this hemisphere, but we know that our enjoyment of freedom is not so much a gift from the past as a challenge for the future, not so much a reward for old victories, but a goal for new struggles, not so much an inheritance from our forefathers as an obligation to those of us who follow, for democracy is never a final achievement. It is a call to effort, to sacrifice, and a willingness to live and to die in its defense.

Every generation of the Americas has shaped new goals for democracy to suit the demands of a new age. These goals for today's America are summed up in the words Alianza para el Progreso. They call for an end to social institutions which deny men and women the opportunity to live decent lives. They call for a better standard of living for all of our citizens in order that they may produce and live up to their capabilities. They call for an end to the remnants of dictatorship in this hemisphere, and they call for an unyielding defense against all those who seek to impose a new tyranny in this hemisphere. They call, in short, for a recognition that no man's job is done until every man in this hemisphere shares an equal opportunity to pursue his hopes as far as his capacities will carry him. That is the commitment of this country and my own, and the commitment of our sister Republics.

It is sometimes easy for us, living in our nations' capitals, to become disheartened about the nature of the struggle. But it is here with you in this project, sharing in your achievements, participating in your labors, that we renew our faith and determination to succeed, for in this project hundreds of people will move into decent housing. By October 1st of this year, almost 8,000 people will have moved into homes financed under the Alliance for Progress, and built by the labor of the people of Costa Rica, and in every country in this hemisphere, similar housing programs must go forward. These medical units which we have seen are only a few of the 60 which will be in operation throughout Central America and Panama this year. They will provide 4 million medical examinations a year, reaching almost a third of the population of the Isthmus. In them, doctors and nurses will bring modern medicine to our people who have had no protection against disability or disease, entering hundreds of villages where no doctor has been. Approximately 8,000 people in Costa Rica already have received treatment under these units.

These books we have distributed to these children are a token of a massive program which will bring more than two million new school books to the children of Central America and Panama. With these books, millions of children for the first time will have the tools to conquer life and make something of their future.

Education, homes, jobs, health, security-those are the things for which this country stands. Those are the things in which the people of the United States strongly believe. Those are the things which together we must achieve for our people, and I want to assure you through the Alliance for Progress we will stand and work shoulder to shoulder in making this hemisphere an example of what democracy can mean.

Viva Costa Rica. Arriba Costa Rica.

Note: The President's opening words referred to Francisco J. Orlich, President of Costa Rica; Fernando Rojas, Costa Rican Minister of Public Works; and Raymond Telles, United States Ambassador to Costa Rica.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks at El Bosque Housing Project Near San Jose. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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