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Remarks at the State Dinner Hosted by President Carlos Menem of Argentina in Buenos Aires

October 16, 1997

Mr. President, Zulema, to the members of Congress and the Supreme Court, Mr. Mayor and governors, former President Alfonsin, members of the diplomatic corps, distinguished guests. Mr. President, thank you for your fine statement, your warm welcome, and the extraordinary hospitality that Hillary and I and our entire delegation of Cabinet, administration, and congressional members have received from the people of Buenos Aires and Argentina.

Mr. President, as you know, like you, I come from a small rural State, where some people still value their horse more than their automobile. [Laughter] And with this remarkable feast, you have reminded us with barbecue that we are truly at home.

Exactly 150 years ago, in the autumn of 1847, a young man from Argentina visited the United States and was profoundly affected by the experience. He thought that we Americans ate our meals too quickly—[laughter]—that our young people had strange courtship habits, and that the White House was not big enough for the President. [Laughter] Still, he was impressed by a nation in which individuals were valued for their capacity and their work, where education was prized as the great equalizing force of democracy, where a multitude of people of different backgrounds and languages came together, in his words, "as if they were one family, joining one another, mixing with each other, parts of old societies forming the new, most daring republic in the world." Mr. President, that young man was Domingo Faustino Sarmiento.

Today, 150 years later, America looks across the great expanse of our hemisphere at Argentina and we are inspired by Argentina today as Sarmiento was by America then. We see a nation shaped, like us, by waves of immigrants from the Old World and the experience of frontier life in the New World. Here, where so many languages are spoken, from Basque to Ukrainian, from Arabic to Welsh, we see a nation drawing strength from its remarkable diversity. Today, we see an Argentina grounded in democracy, committed to economic reforms that have put it on the road to more widespread prosperity and to educating its people for the demands of the new economy.

I speak for all Americans when I say how very pleased I am that in the last decade our nations have built a strong, new relationship, driven by shared values, based on partnership and respect. Argentina and America have joined together in common cause. We pledge to create a free-trade area of the Americas by 2005; to bring new prosperity to all people of our hemisphere; to turn the revolution in information technology to our children's advantage by opening a world of knowledge to all—all—our children. One hundred fifty years ago, education was Sarmiento's great passion. Today, it is central to our ability to prove that democracy works for all people and to the future we are trying to build together.

We are also partners in helping those around the world who take risks for peace. I thank the people of Argentina for sending peacekeepers into troubled places all over the Earth and setting an example for all nations. The robust bonds of friendship between Argentina and the United States are rooted in our shared commitment to peace and freedom, to prosperity and security, to the integrity of the individual, the family, and the community. They are at the heart of all we dream for our future.

President Menem, I salute you for the extraordinary leadership you have shown in helping our nations turn this corner in history. No one in our hemisphere has done more to seize the opportunities of this new era. Generations to come will remember this as a moment when our two nations served the deepest interests of our people. And tonight the United States is proud to work alongside Argentina, an Argentina that is fulfilling Domingo Sarmiento's greatest hopes.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us raise a glass to the new partnership between our people for peace and prosperity, here and throughout the world.

NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 9:40 p.m. in the ballroom at the Rural Center. In his remarks, he referred to President Menem's daughter, Zulema Maria Menem; Mayor Fernando de la Rua of Buenos Aires; and former President Raul Alfonsin of Argentina.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the State Dinner Hosted by President Carlos Menem of Argentina in Buenos Aires Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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