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Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the 1982 Freedoms Foundation American Friendship Medal to Prime Minister Edward Philip George Seaga of Jamaica

February 22, 1983

The President. It's a great pleasure to welcome all of you here this morning. We're here to honor one of the foremost statesmen in our hemisphere and certainly our good friend and my good friend, the Prime Minister, Edward Seaga of Jamaica.

Prime Minister Seaga's being awarded the 1982 American Friendship Medal by the Freedoms Foundation for his efforts to further democratic institutions and the free market economy and for his courageous leadership in the cause of freedom for all people. Few people are more deserving of this tribute than Prime Minister Seaga. People often say that freedom is a worthy ideal and it works. Well, the proof of this axiom is reflected in the achievements in Jamaica of the man we're honoring today.

Before Prime Minister Seaga, there was violence and lawlessness. Now there's peace and growing respect for the law. Before, there was despair about the future. Now there is hope and expectation of better times ahead. In the recent past, the economy was declining. And now, through free enterprise, it is growing. And a short time ago few new jobs were being created, and now there are significant employment opportunities. Without the political and economic freedom characteristic of democratic societies, these results would have been impossible.

Jamaica's demonstrating to its neighbors who share its structural economic problems and resulting political polarization that conditions of freedom and economic opportunity lead to greater prosperity and peace for all. Prime Minister Seaga's accomplishments are not limited to what he's done in Jamaica in just over 2 years. He has long opposed totalitarian inroads in the Caribbean Basin. He has fought for the adherence of Basin States to the principles of free elections, respect for basic human rights, and other democratic ideals that we all cherish.

Long-term prosperity cannot be achieved without internal conditions of political freedom and economic opportunity. But external assistance is often necessary to help overcome structural economic problems that impede development. This is particularly true in Caribbean Basin nations, whose small economies are especially vulnerable to external shocks. Prime Minister Seaga's ideas about the need for outside trade and investment incentives to foster the region's economic development were an important intellectual force contributing to the development of my Caribbean Basin Initiative-CBI—proposal to Congress last year.

Prime Minister Seaga has been the CBI's most persistent and eloquent Caribbean Initiative advocate and spokesman. And I am deeply disappointed that the CBI did not pass the Senate last December. Last week, I sent up to Congress some legislation—on Friday, as a matter of fact—on the CBI as one of our highest priorities. And I'm hopeful that it will pass quickly in this session. The Congress knows this legislation is essential to help the Basin countries cope with economic difficulties not of their own making if their people are to have a better future.

In giving this prestigious award to Prime Minister Seaga, the Freedoms Foundation is recognizing a true friend of people everywhere who desire a better life through freedom and economic opportunity. And for that reason, he is also a friend of the United States.

It's now my great pleasure to present Dr. Robert Miller, the president of the Freedoms Foundation, who will present the American Friendship Medal to Prime Minister Seaga.

Dr. Miller. Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Prime Minister, and ladies and gentlemen:

Last November the national award jury met on our campus and selected the 1982 Freedoms Foundation award recipients. At that time, Mr. Prime Minister, it selected you to receive the highest award that Freedoms Foundation can bestow on a non-American citizen, the American Friendship Medal.

It is my privilege as president of that Foundation, acting on behalf of the jury, the board of directors, and the council of trustees, to present to you the 1982 Freedoms Foundation American Friendship Medal. The citation reads, sir: "For his furtherance of democratic institutions and a free-market economy, and for his courageous leadership in the cause of freedom for all people."

Congratulations, sir.

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, Dr. Miller, Mr. Vice President, members of the Cabinet, Your Excellencies of the diplomatic corps, Honorable Members of the Senate and of the House, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

I want to thank you, Dr. Miller and Freedoms Foundation, for the honor which you have bestowed on me today. I would, however, like to think of this not as a personal tribute, but as an award based on the friendship that exists between our two peoples.

I am particularly delighted that this award has been associated with the President of the United States whose personal friendship for Jamaica has been translated into many acts of support over the period of the term of office of my administration, acts of support which have helped in no small way to rebuild some of the bridges that had been torn down between our two peoples in a previous time. Notwithstanding this personal dimension, I would like to think of this award as having a wider basis of considerations which account for the broad base of friendship which exists between the Jamaican and the American people.

Historically, we had a good foundation. Our two Founding Fathers were well known and well understood the role of the United States in the hemisphere and the friendship that would naturally exist between our two peoples. Sir Alexander Bustamente, whose own hundredth birthday anniversary we commemorate in a couple of days, was an unabashed friend of the American people. Norman Washington Manley was born on July 4th, and carrying the middle name Washington, I believe, speaks for itself and I need say no more.

Demographically, one of every four Jamaicans live in the United States, and they find themselves at home here because of the wide range of beliefs and values which they, as a people, share with the American people. Politically, we share a common political system—parliamentary democracy. And this system is based on a common devotion to the principle enshrined in the Declaration of Independence by your own Founding Father—whose 251st anniversary of his birth was commemorated yesterday-George Washington, in the principle that government must exist by the consent of the governed.

We share a common belief that personal reward is the greatest motivation for personal initiative and effort and that by this system we can best make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before. Our peoples share the objective of betterment of self and family as the strongest driving force to build a prosperous society.

There are differences, because we are not clones of each other. But the commonalities far outweigh these differences. And I had occasion on the well-remembered visit of President Reagan to Jamaica to present him with the text of many popular polls that had been taken in Jamaica over the last several years in which issues involving the United States Government or its people were in point. And we recorded with pleasure that in every such instance by the voluntary vote of the Jamaican people in such polls, the affirmative response to the American people and to the United States Government was in excess of 70 percent as a minimum.

I emphasize this point, because too often our friendship is seen and described in terms of the personal relationship that may exist between myself and your President or political expediency without understanding that a people with a broad, common background must independently of each other strike broad common positions in their own common interests. This broad span of natural common interests and common design is bigger than the Prime Minister of Jamaica. It is bigger than the President of the United States. It is a people thing that is shaped by their own experiences and nurtured by their own voluntary will.

I accept this award of the American Friendship Medal as a custodian of friendship between our peoples, of which the friendship which exists between myself and your President is only symbolic. Like my distinguished predecessors who have received this distinguished award, I am grateful that Freedoms Foundation, which has made this award, is devoted to the recognition of struggles for freedom to make nations free and to honor the strengthening of relations. In our own case, we have had to struggle from destructive forces which tested the full strength of our beliefs. And in doing so, we have been able to preserve our own country for freedom and democracy.

I accept your award in demonstration of the precept that the quality of freedom cannot be diluted. It is indivisible, whether it is the great driving force which created the nation that today leads the free world or the beacon which guided Jamaica in its struggles to preserve its own foundations of freedom.

Note: The President spoke at 10:02 a.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Prior to the ceremony, the President and the Prime Minister met in the Oval Office.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the 1982 Freedoms Foundation American Friendship Medal to Prime Minister Edward Philip George Seaga of Jamaica Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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