Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Meeting With the President's Council for International Youth Exchange

January 20, 1983

The President. Thank you very much. First, I want to welcome you and thank you for taking time from your busy schedules to come to Washington. These remarks are also being videotaped for the Williamsburg Conference for International Youth Exchange, so to all of you attending that conference, let me extend a welcome.

This is such a distinguished group, both here and in Williamsburg, perhaps I shouldn't tell the story of the mama mouse who was trying to teach her offspring the ways of the world and found herself one day—and her family—face to face with a great, big eat. She was a smart little mouse, though, so she started barking like a dog. And the eat, of course, turned tail and headed for where it came from. She turned to her little ones, and the mama mouse said, "Now, you see, that's the importance of a second language." [Laughter]

Aren't you fellows going to sit down? [Laughter]

Well, we do need a second language—a language of understanding. Two years ago today, I took the oath of office. And in my remarks, I said that "Peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it." I still believe deeply in those words. And the best way, the only way to that peace is through understanding among nations.

Some of you may remember what Winston Churchill said of the United States following World War II. "What other nation in history, when it became supremely powerful, has had no thought of territorial aggrandizement, no ambition but to use its resources for the good of the world." I think that was one of the finest chapters in our history, and we have every reason to he proud.

But today, almost 40 years later, there are many in the world, especially young people, who have no personal memory of that period, who do not understand America and what she represents. They do not know that America still possesses that spirit that Churchill described. The lack of understanding is a serious problem for our future. And that's where you, the members of the President's Council for International Youth Exchange, enter the picture. You and I strongly believe in the American ideal. We must trust our system and our values enough to know that young people from other countries, if they have a chance to visit us and live among us, will come to understand the American experience.

And there's another side to this idea. While we receive guests from other countries, we will also send our own young people to experience other cultures and to carry the American values to their host countries.

To help promote the exchange, last May I proposed the International Youth Exchange Initiative, which was endorsed by the leaders of the six other countries at the Versailles Economic Summit. And I'm pleased that representatives of our Versailles partners could be here today.

I want to thank the members of the President's Inaugural Trust for the donation of a million dollars to the Youth Exchange Program. And I understand that almost an other million has been.

Mr. Wick. Full million.

The President. What?

Mr. Wick. Full million now, as of this afternoon.

The President. It's 4 million?

Mr. Wick. No, a full million.

The President. A full million.

Mr. Wick. We have two—[inaudible].

The President. Yes, all right. [Laughter] Sold to the gentleman in the corner chair. [Laughter]

And I understand that another million has been pledged by Equitable Life, Atlantic Richfield, NVF, Phillips Industries, Time, Westinghouse, and Archer-Daniels-Midland. Now, how much does that make it?

Mr. Wick. That's the million.

The President. That's the million. Well- [laughter] —

Mr. Wick. [Inaudible]—recycling. [Laughter]

The President. Well, I'm confident that these are the first of many donations from the private sector to reach our goal of $10 million over the next 3 years.

The Council's work underscores our strong belief in the private sector's role in building the bridges of understanding. Understanding cannot be measured, but our reward will come from those first awkward introductions when a young person meets his or her host family and just months later, when those teary-eyed goodbyes as friends part company. So, I thank you all for being part of this transformation of nations into individuals.

And just within the last few days, if I could add, a little experience that I was not present to see but that others of our administration were, while we'd been entertaining Prime Minister Nakasone of Japan. And at a dinner just recently—he and his wife and lovely daughter—he, in a toast, revealed that his daughter had been in such an exchange to the United States. And before he finished telling about what this experience had meant, his daughter was in tears, and he was crying. And he also related, the young man who had been the exchange, or the family, and that he had seen them and that they, too, had shed tears on their happy memories of having their daughter in this country. And they felt the same way about the young man that had been in their home on the exchange. And it was—I just thought it was very convenient that this little experience had happened right now while we're meeting here.

But again, I thank you all very much. And what this exchange does is carries out something I've long believed—the world will be all right if we all start talking to each other instead of about each other.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:30 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. The meeting was held to commemorate the donation of $1 million from the President's Inaugural Trust Fund to the Council. The sum represented most of the revenues donated by private contributors in excess of the costs of the President's 1981 Inaugural.

The President's Council for International Youth Exchange, composed of approximately 100 U.S. business and educational leaders, was established to help further the initiative announced by the President in May 1982. The Council works with the United States Information Agency (USIA) and a group of private exchange organizations on the initiative.

Charles Z. Wick, Director of USIA, is the President's personal representative for the effort and a trustee of the President's Inaugural Trust Fund.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Meeting With the President's Council for International Youth Exchange Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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