Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks to the Ambassadors of Nations Participating in the Alliance for Progress.

May 11, 1964

Ladies and gentlemen:

I want to welcome you to the White House this evening. I am slightly tardy because we have just completed an informal review of the Alliance for Progress problems with all the ambassadors and the distinguished head of CIAP. This kind of exchange, we think, strengthens our common aim and our combined ability to advance the alliance.

So this afternoon I asked all the ambassadors to meet with me in the Cabinet Room. I am not sure I didn't have a better Cabinet today than I normally have. We talked about our mutual problems and then I asked them to give me their Frank, candid criticisms, suggestions on the problems that face us both, and they were quite helpful.

I learned much that will be very helpful in the days ahead--some of the weaker points that they pointed out, some of the bureaucracy that exists in all government, not just in our government but in their governments as well.

I look forward to further meetings of this kind in the days ahead and I have asked the Secretary of State to make plans to have the ambassadors in from time to time to have a very frank and open exchange with them. Senator Morse taught me back in the Senate that you could always deal with a fellow across the table easier than you could if you tried to deal with him by correspondence.

On November 18th, President Kennedy spoke once again to the hemisphere, and he quoted Robert frost, saying that "nothing is true except as a man or as men adhere to it--to live it, to spend themselves on it, to die for it." Within a week after that statement was made, his life, consecrated to this cause, had been tragically ended. It is for us, the living, to insure that the hopes that he raised are now regarded.

To that purpose, I said last November, "Let us make the Alliance for Progress President Kennedy's living memorial."

Today's agreements are part of our pledge. The United States will provide almost $40 million--the countries of Latin America will provide $60 million--for projects that we are beginning in 14 countries. These projects will help eliminate malaria in Brazil. They will help train farmers in Bolivia. They will establish for the first time three rural electric cooperatives serving 10,000 homes and farms in the countryside of Colombia. They will bring credit and assistance to 21,000 small farms in the land reform and colonization areas of Peru. They will touch the lives and ease the struggles of 23 million people across our hemisphere.

These are only the latest steps in 6 months of very extraordinary effort since I became President. Since last December the United States has extended more than $430 million in assistance.

In that 6-month period we have, by working together, completed more than 52,000 homes and 7,000 new classrooms. We have produced more than a million and a half schoolbooks. We have made more than 25,000 loans to farmers.

We have put into operation health programs to care for 4 million people, and food for peace programs to feed more than 10 million of our fellow Americans.

We have built more than 500 miles of roads. We have trained more than 10,000 teachers.

We have trained more than 1,000 public administrators.

We have established already more than 200 credit unions--if any of you want the address after the meeting, I will be glad to supply it to you. We have 300 water systems that will benefit 10 million people.

In the months to come, we intend to more than double the pace of this action. For this is the time and this is the day and this is an administration of action.

Our help is only a small proportion of the resources for growth and the reforms for justice contributed by all of you, you the countries of Latin America. These are the tangible tokens of the constancy of our cause since the signing of the Charter of Punta del Este. What we believed in then-I should not have to repeat--we stand for now. What we agreed to then, we support now. What we sought and looked forward to then, we seek now.

This is as it must be. Our programs and our policies are not founded on the shifting sands of momentary concern or the passing opinions of any one official or any present official. They are the inescapable issue of the events of our past and the hazards of our present.

When President Kennedy made his first statement to the ambassadors in the dining room of this house on the Alliance for Progress, he said, "We are going to wage a war on the ancient enemies of mankind-poverty, illiteracy and disease." We say now that if a peaceful revolution is impossible, a violent revolution is inevitable.

These things are rooted in our devotion to our democratic birthright and dedication to our spiritual values. They are, I want you to know, in short, the only objectives possible to men that seek to retain freedom and protect moral values while pursuing progress in a world that is on the march.

Real problems require realistic solutions. Helping to reshape an entire hemisphere requires practical priorities and concrete deeds. But no action, no judgment, no statement will advance our alliance unless it is guided by firm and resolute regard to principles. Those principles must not yield either to immediate expedient or to any present danger.

So we come here today to renew, as we do in the acts of every day, our dedication to the principles of development, of diversity, and of democracy.

Franklin Roosevelt, a man whom I served and a man whom I loved, a man whose precepts I follow, said, "Through democratic processes we can strive to achieve for the Americas the highest possible living standards for all of our people."

So I pledge to you today that we will continue to pursue that goal until every campesino, every worker, is freed from the crushing weight of poverty, disease, and illiteracy and ignorance.

I have asked the Congress for the funds necessary to meet our obligation under the Alliance for Progress. I will fight for those funds with every resource of my Government. Furthermore, I intend to ask for $250 million this year to replenish the Bank's fund for special operations in accordance with the unanimous vote of the Panama meeting of the Inter-American Bank. That Bank, supported first by President Eisenhower, has become a beacon of hope to the oppressed of our lands.

The principle of diversity stems from President Roosevelt's policy of the good neighbor. Within the loose and ample frame of the inter-American system, there is room for each nation to order its institutions and to organize its economy, so long as it respects the rights of its neighbors. In the Councils of the alliance we must guide each other toward the most rewarding course of progress. We do not confuse that duty and that responsibility with any desire or any right to impose those views on unwilling neighbors.

In devotion to democracy, we are guided by the command of Bolivar that "We must fearlessly lay the foundations of South American liberty: to hesitate is destruction."

Our charter charges each American country to seek and to strengthen representative democracy. Without that democracy, and without the freedom that it nourishes, material progress is an aimless enterprise, destroying the dignity of the spirit that it is really meant to liberate. So we will continue to join with you to encourage democracy until we build a hemisphere of free nations from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic circle.

But the charter of the alliance is not confined to political democracy. It commands a peaceful democratic social revolution across the hemisphere. It calls upon us to throw open the gates of opportunity to the landless and the despised, to throw open the gates of opportunity to the poor and to the oppressed. It asks that unjust privilege be ended and that unfair power be curbed.

The United States signed that charter. We are fulfilling that commitment. We have already begun an all-out war on poverty in this country. For a just country cannot permit a class of forsaken in the midst of the affluent and the fortunate.

We are also marching forward in our struggle to eliminate racial injustice, to permit every man of every race, of every color, of every belief, to share fully in America's national life.

In the same way we will join with those forces across the hemisphere who seek to advance their own democratic revolution. We are finding in the United States that it is not easy to change the customs of centuries. Some seek to halt reform and change. Others seek to impose terror and tyranny. But Bolivar's wisdom is our warning--"To hesitate is destruction."

I know my country's policies and my country's help are very important to the Alliance for Progress. But in 1961 a new hemisphere began to be born. In that hemisphere, success or failure does not hinge on testing each shifting wind or each new word which comes from our neighbors. Rather, it depends on the courage and the leadership that we can bring to our own people in our own land. I am doing my dead level best to provide that leadership in my country now.

The Alliance for Progress, true, is a most complex task. It has many dimensions and many directions. But it does rest on the hopes of people much like those that I have seen in my recent trips through the poverty areas of the United States.

In the last 13 days I have personally met the people in 13 States.

Across this hemisphere there are millions of despairing men and women that I hope to meet when I can get away from Washington. They come to birth, they toil, and they die, never knowing a day without hunger. They never feel the joy of rewarded achievement. They never feel the pride that comes from providing for those they love. They struggle for their self-respect, for their dignity as one of the children of God, against those who exploit them in a world which is closed to their hopes. Faces bent and backs bowed they see ahead of them only that darkness in which they walk.

Well, we work for these men and women not because we have to. We work because morality commands it, and I said in Atlanta the other morning justice requires it, and our own dignity as men depends on it. We work not because we fear the unjust wrath of an enemy, but because we do fear the just wrath of God.

The path ahead, I can tell you, is long and the way is hard. There will be many editorials written about us, and there will be many complaints spoken of us. But we must, in the words of the prophet, "Mount up on the wings of eagles, run and not grow weary."

We have reached a turning point.

The foundations have been laid. The time calls for more action and not just more words. In the next year there will be twice as much action, twice as much accomplished as in any previous year in this program. I can say that today with confidence, and I can say that our Alliance for Progress will succeed. The success of our effort, the efforts of your countries and my country, will indicate to those who come after us the vision of those who set us on this path.

Today, in this room, you have not only the great ambassadors and spokesmen of the great republics which are part of this worthy endeavor, but you have the leaders in the Congress of both parties whose first concern is humanity, wherever it exists, and who dedicate their lives and their talents and their energies to seeing that their country does her part, and more, in driving the ancient enemies of mankind from this hemisphere.

Thank you for coming. I hope you will stay and have a little tea with us and enjoy our visit together because, after all, we are all brothers in this world today and it is not often that the family can get together around the family circle.

We are going to have a signing ceremony before we proceed to the other room. If the ambassadors will come forward and join me, Ambassador Duke will read what we are signing.

[Following the signing ceremony, Dr. Guillermo Sevilla-Sacasa spoke briefly. The President then resumed speaking.]

I wonder if Mr. Moscoso and Dr. Sanz de Santamaria would come up here with me a moment. Before we go into the other room, I just want to say how much we regret that Mr. Moscoso has resigned to enter into other service for his country. We are delighted that he could be here today, and I am happy to announce that the United States is proposing the Honorable Walt W. Rostow to be the new U.S. Representative on the Inter-American Committee for the Alliance for Progress succeeding Mr. Moscoso. If this nomination is accepted by the Inter-American Committee, Dr. Rostow will hold this office in addition to his present appointment as Counselor of the Department of State.

Is Mr. Rostow here? The reason I asked, I appointed him when he was on a plane somewhere in the air this afternoon and I was not sure whether he had arrived.

Note: The President spoke at 5:30 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Early in his remarks he referred to Dr. Sanz de Santamaria, Chairman of the Inter-American Committee on the Alliance for Progress. Later he referred to Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon and Angier Biddle Duke, Chief of Protocol, Department of State.

At the close of his formal remarks the President signed 12 new Alliance for Progress loan agreements extending $40 million in credits including $10 million for the Central American Bank for Economic Integration.

After the signing ceremony, the President received the Ambassadors in the Blue Room and refreshments were served in the State Dining Room.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to the Ambassadors of Nations Participating in the Alliance for Progress. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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