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Remarks at a State Dinner Hosted by President Sebastian Pinera Echenique of Chile in Santiago

March 21, 2011

Buenas noches. President Pinera; First Lady; former Presidents Aylwin, Frei, Lagos; to all the distinguished guests here tonight, especially the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza: It is wonderful to be here. I have to say that because I've already given one speech tonight, I've already made remarks at the press, I'm going to keep my remarks tonight very brief. Because otherwise, you won't invite me back. [Laughter]

On our flight into Chile today, we were all struck by the incredible beauty of the Andes. We looked out the window, Michelle and my daughters and my staff, and we marveled at the awesome ranges and the snowcapped peaks. It was truly spectacular.

And it called to mind something once said by a beloved daughter of both our countries, the novelist Isabel Allende. She said, "I come from a land of mountains, where friendship is a blood pact . . . hospitality is sacred, [and] bonds unbreakable."

President Pinera, First Lady, to you and the people of Santiago and of Chile, thank you for the extraordinary hospitality that you have shown to both me, Michelle, and our daughters. And thank you for the friendship and the strong bonds between our people, which indeed are unbreakable.

Given the events that are unfolding half a world away, in the Middle East and North Africa, I hope you'll give me a brief moment to reflect on the broader meaning of the times that we live in.

We gather in a palace that tells the story of a nation and its relationship with my own. For many years, this was a symbol of how Chile lost its democracy. But today, it stands as a testament to how Chile regained and rebuilt your democracy, an achievement for which I know all Chileans are extraordinarily proud.

In this sense, you've fulfilled the vision of the liberator Bolivar, who long ago predicted, "Chile can be free." Chile can be free. And as I said in my speech today, at a time when others around the world are reaching for their own rights and struggling for their own sense of dignity, Chile sends a powerful message: You too can write a new chapter in the story of your nation; you too can be free.

Some have called Chile's progress a miracle. But as you know so well, there was nothing miraculous about it. It takes courage and sacrifice and resolve over many years. This too is Chile's lesson for the world. Democracy can't be imposed from the outside. It must spring from within, from the hearts and souls of those who seek it and are willing to work for it.

There's a saying that goes, "Tell me who is by your side, and I'll tell you who you are." And so I would like to propose a toast. I hope they didn't mix up our glasses. [Laughter].

To the people and progress of Chile, the United States of America is proud to stand with you as partners. And to what our partnership says about who we are, two proud nations bound by the conviction that change is possible, that every nation can be free, and that there can be no denying the dignity and human rights that are so eloquently expressed in our Constitution and are now lived out in Chile today.


Note: The President spoke at 9:06 p.m. at the Palacio de La Moneda. In his remarks, he referred to Cecilia Morel de Pinera, wife of President Pinera; and former Presidents Patricio Aylwin Azocar, Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, and Ricardo Lagos Escobar of Chile.

Barack Obama, Remarks at a State Dinner Hosted by President Sebastian Pinera Echenique of Chile in Santiago Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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