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Remarks at a Reception for the Chiefs of Delegations to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States.

April 13, 1973

Mr. Secretary and ladies and gentlemen:

Mrs. Nixon and I are very honored to welcome those who are attending this historic conference of the Organization of American States.

I have followed your proceedings to date with very great interest, and as one columnist summed it up, the proceedings have been characterized by a combination of frustration and expectation. I hope that my brief remarks tonight will not add to the frustration, but may, perhaps, give you reason for more expectation.

Let me speak quite frankly to members of the American family. During the year 1972, when the journeys to Peking and Moscow took place, and during the past 4 years when we have had the great problems involved in Southeast Asia, there has been a tendency throughout this hemisphere to think that the United States is so interested in and so obsessed with other problems that it is not concerned with the problems of our closest friends and neighbors. If that impression was created, it certainly was not intended on my part.

I am the first President of the United States ever to have visited all of the nations of the American Hemisphere before becoming President, and I consider the policy of my country insofar as it relates to the problems of this hemisphere to be of the highest importance, not of the second level of importance, and in this year 1973, I hope that we can demonstrate effectively that that is the case.

We shall continue progress in other areas of the world which is essential if we are to have world peace, but we know that a sound foreign policy can only be based on good relations and better relations with our closest friends and our closest neighbors in this hemisphere.

We have made a beginning in one area. You will recall that it was e years ago that we spoke of the necessity of moving forward with general tariff preferences, and now in the trade legislation that we have submitted to the Congress, we believe that this year we have a very good chance to get that through the Congress. And we welcome the initiatives that this organization has undertaken to develop new policies to suit the times in which we live.

To demonstrate that we have an equal interest, the Secretary of State, who has traveled to all the continents of the world in the past 4 years, will be making a journey to Latin America and will report, when he returns, with recommendations for action for better relations with our friends to the south, and I ask all of the leaders of your countries to speak to him very frankly about what you feel our policies should be. He will also speak frankly to you and, I can assure you, will report very frankly to me.

Without getting into anything specific today, let me give you my general attitude.

We live in a time in world history when the old organizations and the old approaches many times do not speak to the problems that we face today. That is why we have made historic breakthroughs in our trips to Peking and Moscow in developing new relationships to deal with the world as it is today.

The OAS is a very proud organization. It is also a very old organization. It began 83 years ago. The organization which later became the OAS then began, and as my good friend, Dr. Santamaria, said to me on a visit to the White House just a few days ago, the reasons that the organization was set up 83 years ago, some of them have changed, some of them are still relevant. And that is why today I think it is important for all of us, in this year 1973, to look at the OAS and make it relevant to the problems of today and, particularly, to make it more relevant to the economic problems which are a major concern to all of the nations in this hemisphere.

I pledge to you that in these next 4 years in which I will be in this office that I want to work with you, with all of you and with all of your governments, toward the goal that we all share of peace and justice and progress for all of the members of the American family.

And I want to thank my voice here for getting every word right. [Laughter]

Although my Spanish was not learned in school, only picked up by my travels abroad, I will simply say to you, as you have so often said to me and my wife when we have visited your country, estan ustedes en su casa.

Note: The President spoke at 5:12 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

In his remarks, the President referred to Secretary of State William P. Rogers and Dr. Carlos Sanz de Santamaria, Chairman of the Inter-American Committee for the Alliance for Progress, OAS.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a Reception for the Chiefs of Delegations to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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