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Remarks of Welcome at the White House to President Alessandri of Chile

December 11, 1962

Mr. President, Ambassador, and the Ambassadors of the Organization of American States, and the Ambassadors from the other countries of the hemisphere who are with us today:

Mr. President, we are delighted to welcome you as the first President of your country to come to the United States in over a decade.

I think it most appropriate that you come now in the winter of 1962 because the matters which concern Chile and the United States are matters of the greatest concern to this country. Our relations have been happy and harmonious since 1810, when the Chilean revolution, which we like to think in this country took some of its inspiration from the American revolution, as well as the revolutionary movements of Europe--from that first occasion in 1810 when President Madison sent Mr. Poinsett, of South Carolina, as our consul, who had an intimate relation with Mr. O'Higgins and the others who took such a leading part in your country's struggle for freedom, since that date Chile has maintained an effective constitutional democracy and has maintained happy relations with the United States. We hope that those relations will continue and be strengthened.

Chile, and indeed all of the countries of the hemisphere, face in many ways the same problems, and that is a population which is vital, increasingly concerned about a better life, the governments of the hemisphere struggling to provide better opportunity for the people, education, employment, security in older age, a dependence which many of the countries of Latin America share in two or three or four commodities which are exported to the United States and to Western Europe. Some of these commodities have dropped in recent years, facing countries which are already heavily burdened and which are already experiencing a sharp increase in their population with additional economic problems.

The Alliance for Progress, which is an effort to provide a mutual basis of progress, a cooperative basis for progress between the people of Latin America and the people of North America is, I think, an answer to this great struggle but obviously an answer which is not sufficient unless we put more effort into it, unless we put heart and soul into it.

So, Mr. President, we are very glad to have you here. I think your visit indicates the major concern which this administration and Government feels with our relations with Latin America. We are also glad to have you here because we appreciated your strong support and that of your country during the difficult days of the past fall, and your messages on that occasion heartened us greatly.

So, Mr. President, you come at a very opportune time, from a country which we admire, and we are very proud to have you as our guest.

Note: The President spoke at 11:15 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House where President Jorge Alessandri Rodriguez was given a formal welcome with full military honors. President Alessandri responded as follows:

"Mr. President:

"Let my first words in the Capital of the United States of America be a cordial greeting from the people of Chile to you and to the citizens of this great Nation.

"On touching down upon the territory of the United States in Florida, and later in the historic city of Philadelphia, I have been able to appreciate the friendly expressions of welcome which you have given me in your high traditions of hospitality and distinction. I accept such kind tributes as a demonstration of affection toward the post I hold and the people I represent.

"While flying over United States territory, I have seen some of the great works that the hand of man is able to accomplish in a land of natural wealth within a system of freedom and free enterprise. The visit that I am making to this country on the very kind invitation of President Kennedy is aimed at strengthening the already friendly ties between Chile and the United States, ties which were borne together in our independence. Moreover, in the forthcoming interviews, I wish to make my country better known in order that not only our defects be known here, but also some of the qualities of the industrious and democratic Chilean people.

"The forward looking policy which President Kennedy has been sponsoring for Latin America from the very outset of his Presidential term, and his generous initiative of Alliance for Progress are valuable contributions that enables one to look upon the future with confidence, and the progress and well being of the American Continent and the strengthening of its system of freedom.

"Chile will never forget, Mr. President, the generous help which the American people extended toward it during the catastrophe of the different earthquakes which occurred in May of 1960 which impaired and damaged a great part of our national territory, and I wish to reiterate once again the gratitude which we all feel toward the United States of America for this very generous help.

"It is my greatest hope that mutual understanding between the governments of South, Central, and North America will make our cooperation more efficient and in accordance with the speed that present circumstances demand. Once the difficulties of this vast undertaking have been overcome, the Latin American people will no doubt meet the urgent need for improving their standard of living, and close understanding and cooperation shall be possible between all the countries of the Americas, thereby insuring a long political, social, and economic cooperation. With this goal in mind, and in order to achieve such aims, Chile answers the call in this critical hour of world freedom, resolved to extend its wholehearted political and spiritual cooperation in line with your great democracy and with other freedom-loving nations of the world."

In President Kennedy's opening remarks the word "Ambassador" referred to Walter Muller, Ambassador to the United States from Chile.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Welcome at the White House to President Alessandri of Chile Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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