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Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Alessandro Pertini of Italy

March 25, 1982

President Reagan. President Pertini, today all America welcomes you with an open heart. This, I understand, is your first visit to the United States. We consider it an honor to have with us a friend who has sacrificed so much for the cause of freedom.

Mr. President, Italy and the United States stand shoulder to shoulder in the defense of democratic government and human freedom. In these perilous times, both our peoples may find comfort in the partnership that has developed between our nations. The great Roman orator Cicero once said, "Friendship makes prosperity more brilliant and lightens adversity by dividing and sharing it." Well, whether it be good times or bad, our two peoples have demonstrated beyond any doubt that Italy and the United States are and will be friends.

This bond is not solely due to the magnificent contributions Americans of Italian descent have made in this land. Certainly all Americans are aware of these contributions in the arts, in business and industry, and in government. They are monuments of which we are rightfully proud. Our brotherhood is one of soul as well as blood. If there had never been a migration from your country, we would still be kindred spirits because of our common ideals.

Today these ideals are threatened, but it is heartening to see how they draw us closer together. Your unwavering support of the Western alliance, your willingness to do your part and more for the protection of freedom are much appreciated by the people of the United States.

It is said that actions speak louder than words. Well, if that be true, certainly all the world has heard your message. Your country was one of the first major powers to step forward to participate in the Sinai peacekeeping force. Just as vital to peace was your willingness to provide the Alliance the means of maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent as a counterbalance to a massive Soviet buildup. And you were quick to support the oppressed peoples of Afghanistan and Poland.

These commitments to peace and freedom demonstrate that Italy is no passive ally or fair-weather friend but instead is an indispensable partner. One would expect nothing less from a people that produced men like Giuseppe Garibaldi, in whose heart burned a flame that united all of Italy.

In recent years, the Italian people have fought a grim battle against a foe every bit as threatening to freedom and independence as foreign tanks or nuclear missiles. A gang of brutal and inhuman thugs, aided and abetted by foreign powers, sought to destroy Italy's democracy by acts of sheer terror. You, Mr. President, know better than most the consequences of submitting to such gangs and what this could mean. The fight against these terrorists has been costly. Aldo Moro and many others, men and women who had much to contribute, who still had much to live for, were cut down.

It takes a special kind of strength to face such an adversary while maintaining democratic institutions. All those who love liberty have prayed for your success. Today I congratulate you and the Italian people for your fortitude. It appears that you are on your way to victory over these cowardly criminals.

I extend to you now, on behalf of all Americans, our thanks for everything that was done to free General James Dozier. This triumph over evil has inspired good and decent people everywhere.

Mr. President, the world is entering a new era of human history. The time commonly known as the postwar period has come to a close. Human freedom faces tremendous challenges. Its future rests upon the shoulders of the citizens of a small number of democratic nations. This heavy weight must be carried, or it will be lost for generations, as Rome with all her glory was destroyed by the barbarians and then engulfed by the Dark Ages. The preservation of freedom is not a task for the weak. We have confidence that the Italian people, rich in heritage and strong in character, like the people of the United States, will meet the historic responsibility before us.

Today, Mr. President, marks the 25th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which created the Common Market, an agreement that has demonstrated even to the most skeptical that free and independent nations can successfully and effectively work together for mutual benefit. Today, let us, the representatives of two powerful forces, decency and freedom, agree that we will face the challenges of the future together and that in times of prosperity and adversity our friendship will stand.

Mr. President, I look forward to visiting your country in June, and I welcome you now to the United States. May the ties between us be always as strong as they are today.

President Pertini [In English]. Thank you very much.

[In Italian] Mr. President, the warmth of the welcome you have extended to me on behalf of the United States and my great pleasure in listening to your words at the start of this my first visit to this great country are the fruit of a very deep-rooted friendship and understanding between our peoples, for it was to the American Revolution, its inherent principles, and also to the declaration of rights that the Italian looked as they brought about the unity of Italy in the Risorgimento. And it was to Rome, to Italy, and to their history that often turned the thoughts of those Americans who in Philadelphia drafted the Constitution of the United States.

Over more than two centuries, the contacts between our peoples have become extremely close in all fields. A precious blood tie has grown up between us. You number among the people of the United States that group of Italians who have proved so industrious, vigorous, and loyal. And we Italians will never forget that American soldiers have twice lost their lives for the independence and liberty of Italy and Europe during two world wars. This friendship between Italy and the United States does not, therefore, follow the dictates of cool diplomatic calculation, but instead has its roots in the fertile ground of the history of our peoples.

The conversations which myself and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Colombo, are to have with you, Mr. President, as well as with other officials of the government and Congress of the United States, these conversations will provide an important forum for the discussion of many aspects of the Italo-American relations and common intents as proposed within the framework of the Atlantic Alliance.

Mr. President, the main reason for my presence here on American soil is, however, to bear witness to certain cherished ideals, aspirations, and values, for it was through these that the Pilgrim Fathers and those fleeing from political, religious, and racial persecution found in America the opportunity to live a peaceful, free, and civilized life.

For these same ideals, we have fought together in Europe. And for these same ideals, we much continue to struggle with tenacity and optimism within the framework of international bodies and institutions. In this way, we reaffirm to the maximum our common faith in free and freely governed peoples.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 10:13 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House, where President Pertini was given a formal welcome with full military honors. President Pertini's remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Following the ceremony, the two Presidents met privately in the Oval Office and were then joined by the Vice President, Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Italian Foreign Minister Emilio Colombo, and William P. Clark, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. The two Presidents then met, together with their delegations, in the Cabinet Room.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Alessandro Pertini of Italy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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