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Remarks at a State Dinner Hosted by President Eduardo Frei of Chile in Santiago

April 16, 1998

Mr. President, Mrs. Frei, members of the Chilean Government, citizens of this great nation: On behalf of my wife, our administration, the Members of Congress and our entire party, I thank you for the warm welcome we have received. And I understand that I should thank you in advance for your patience because the great gathering of this coming week will probably create the biggest taco in your history. [Laughter] For those in our delegation who don't know, that means "traffic jam."

Mr. President, it was just over a year ago that Hillary and I hosted you and Martita for a state visit in Washington. On that trip you delivered a powerful address to a joint session of our Congress. Now I will have the opportunity and the honor of addressing your Parliament tomorrow.

The short time between our visits reflects the growing strength and the growing importance of our relations. Chile is admired in the United States and around the world for its natural beauty, its writers and artists, its athletes, its leadership in seeking peace in volatile regions, its remarkable economic growth and stability, and the bravery of your people in restoring longstanding democracy after two turbulent decades.

That Chile is host to the second Summit of the Americas shows the esteem in which your country is held in this hemisphere. It also demonstrates, Mr. President, the great respect you have earned among your fellow leaders who are proud to be coming here for this meeting.

Some see you, Mr. President, as a man of calm reserve; a civil engineer who, as you just said, expertly builds bridges to improve the lives of your fellow citizens. But it seems to me there may be another side to you. It is said that you love opera and the tango—hardly the stuff of dry engineering. [Laughter] And when you addressed our Congress last year, the first person you quoted was not some gray-suited economist but that great political leader Don Quixote de la Mancha. The words of the noble Don you selected go to the core of our shared values, so let me repeat them tonight: "Freedom is one of the most precious gifts Heaven bestows on man. All the treasure of Earth cannot equal it."

Mr. President, we have seen that like your father before you, you care passionately about the freedom of your people and about the least fortunate in your society. I'm sure your father was in your thoughts when, in your very first address as Chile's President, you pledged to bring hope and dignity to the poorest of your fellow citizens. You've worked hard to ensure that your growing prosperity will benefit not just the few but everyone. And Mrs. Frei deserves great credit for her active work on behalf of the poor, women and children, and Chilean artisans.

The United States wants to deepen our partnership with Chile across the whole range of challenges and opportunities we share, strengthening democracy, improving education, protecting the environment, preserving the peace, and yes, expanding trade. Our meeting today furthered all these goals. I know we will continue to do the same. So much is at stake. Working with the Chilean people and with you, Mr. President, is a great honor for me, my Government, and our citizens.

In the darkest days of the past year, when dissent was suppressed, when people were denied a meaningful vote and true leaders denied the chance to lead, the Chilean people never abandoned hope that one day things would get better. Now, because of your hope, the courage, the vision of your leadership, and your people, things are, indeed, better—much better. Better in a way that is a beacon of hope to people throughout this hemisphere, and, indeed—perhaps more than you know—throughout the world.

Now the United States and Chile celebrate together the precious gifts of freedom and prosperity, and our determination to support democracy and to advance prosperity all across the Americas and throughout the world.

For all that you have done and the reception we have received, and for all that we must do together for tomorrow, I am honored to invite all of you to join me in a toast to the President, the First Lady, and the people of Chile.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:20 p.m. in La Moneda Palace. In his remarks, he referred to President Frei's wife, Marta.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a State Dinner Hosted by President Eduardo Frei of Chile in Santiago Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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