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Remarks on Senate Ratification of the Panama Canal Treaty

April 18, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. This is a day of which Americans can always feel proud, for now we have reminded the world and ourselves of the things that we stand for as a nation. The negotiations that led to these treaties began 14 years ago, and they continued under four administrations, four Presidents. I'm proud that they reached their conclusion while I was President. But I'm far prouder that we, as a people, have shown that in a full and open debate about difficult foreign policy objectives, that we will reach the decisions that are in the best interest of our Nation.

The debate has been long and hard. But in the end, it's given our decision a firm base in the will of the American people. Over the last 8 months, millions of Americans have studied the treaties, have registered their views and, in some cases, have changed their minds. No matter which side they took in this debate, most Americans have acted out of sincere concern about our Nation's interest.

I would like to express my thanks to a few for the job they've done. Under the leadership of Senators Byrd and Baker and Sparkman and others, the Senate has carried out its responsibility of advice and consent with great care. All of us owe them our thanks. I feel a special gratitude and admiration for those Senators who have done what was right, because it was right, despite tremendous pressure and, in some cases, political threats.

The loyal employees of the Panama Canal Zone and the Canal Zone Government also deserve our gratitude and our admiration for their performance during these months of great uncertainty.

And General Torrijos and the people of Panama, who have followed this debate closely and through every stage, have been willing partners and cooperative and patient friends. There is no better indication of the prospect for friendly relations between us in the future than their conduct during the last few months.

We now have a partnership with Panama to maintain and to operate and to defend the canal. We have the clear right to take whatever action is necessary to defend the canal and to keep it open and neutral and accessible. We do not have the right to interfere in Panama's internal affairs. That is a right we neither possess nor desire.

These treaties can mark the beginning of a new era in our relations not only with Panama but with all the rest of the world. They symbolize our determination to deal with the developing nations of the world, the small nations of the world, on the basis of mutual respect and partnership. But the treaties also reaffirm a spirit that is very strong, constant, and old in the American character.

Sixty-four years ago, when the first ship traveled through the canal, our people took legitimate pride in what our ingenuity, our perseverance, and our vision had brought about. We were a nation of builders, and the canal was one of our greatest glories.

And today we have shown that we remain true to that determination, that ingenuity, and most of all, that vision. Today we've proven that what is best and noblest in our national spirit will prevail. Today we've shown that we are still builders, with our face still turned confidently to the future. That is why I believe all Americans should share the pride I feel in the accomplishments which we registered today.

When I was coming in to make this announcement, the Ambassador of Panama, Gabriel Lewis, informed me that General Torrijos has accepted the terms of the treaty that passed the Senate this afternoon. And I want to reaffirm my thanks and my commitment to a true partnership with General Torrijos and the people of a great nation, Panama. Thank you.

REPORTER. Mr. President, are you going down to Panama now?


Q. With these treaties in a few weeks, for formal ceremonies?

THE PRESIDENT. I have been invited by General Torrijos to come to Panama. I would like very much to accept his invitation.

Q. Thank you.


Note: The President spoke at 7:07 p.m. to reporters assembled in the Briefing Room at the White House. His remarks were broadcast live on radio and television.

Earlier, the Senate had voted 68-32 to ratify the treaty.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks on Senate Ratification of the Panama Canal Treaty Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/247724

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