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Toast at a Dinner Hosted by Prime Minister Ciriaco De Mita in Rome

May 27, 1989

Mr. Prime Minister and leaders of the legislative branch, distinguished guests, it's a very great honor for me to be welcomed in such a warm and generous way by the Italian people and their government. You know, Barbara and I have been to this marvelous country, this beautiful country, many times; and as always, we've been received with kindness and generosity. This trip is my first visit to Europe as President of the United States. And I think of no place that is better to begin than right here in Italy and to be right here in Rome.

Mr. Prime Minister, it is traditional when visiting Italy for American leaders to note the millions of our citizens who claim an Italian background, so I will brag -- now 12 million and rising. And among the many Italian-Americans, there are Fiorello La Guardia -- some old enough to remember -- Joe DiMaggio in sports; Tony Fauci, now at the National Institutes of Health; and of course, our Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. And Italian-Americans are one link that binds the United States and Italy -- but only one. For we are united by our belief in individual liberty, human dignity, and the rule of law, and by the shared values of family, faith, and work.

We also admire your country's record of success in combating terrorism and organized crime. And I'm especially grateful for your help in stopping the scourge of narcotics, which torments both our nations. We're going to continue our intense cooperative efforts to fight terrorism and narcotics and to protect air travelers. And just as this cooperative effort brings our peoples even closer together and helps to strengthen our already excellent bilateral relations, so, too, will the action that I'm pleased to announce tonight.

After studying ways to relax U.S. visa requirements, we will soon begin a pilot program to end these requirements for your citizens. In the future, Italians who wish to visit our country, whether as tourists or on business, will no longer need to apply for visas; and we look forward to that day.

But along with our domestic initiatives, I think, too, of the strong military ties between our two countries and within the Atlantic alliance, the most enduring alliance in the history of man. And to protect that alliance and the shared commitment to freedom which underlies it is our continuing mission not merely as Americans or Italians but as believers in democracy. Of this, I am certain: We will do our part, and I know Italy will do its part.

For when our common security has been in danger, you have stood ready to defend the alliance. And when the need arose for NATO to relocate that 401st Tactical Fighter Wing within southern Europe, Italy welcomed it. And when strategic interests were at risk in the Persian Gulf and in Lebanon, Italy sent ships and peacekeeping forces. And when NATO confronted widespread Soviet deployment of these multiple-warhead SS - 20 missiles, Italy stood tall in response. And at times when Europe seemed ready to turn inward, you have reinforced our transatlantic ties. And for that, Mr. Prime Minister, Italy has our gratitude and our profound respect. So, together, let us reaffirm the ties that bind us, and let's continue to build peace and the commonwealth of free nations not for ourselves but also for our children -- the kind of peace and freedom which lasts.

And in that spirit, Mr. Prime Minister, I ask all of our guests tonight to rise and raise their glasses. To Italian-American friendship, our transatlantic heritage, and to the Western alliance and the shared values of freedom and democracy that have made that alliance strong, and to your health, Mr. Prime Minister, and the peace and prosperity of your great country.

Note: The President spoke at 9:20 p.m. in the dining room at Villa Madama.

George Bush, Toast at a Dinner Hosted by Prime Minister Ciriaco De Mita in Rome Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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