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Toast at a State Dinner in Caracas, Venezuela

March 28, 1978

President and Mrs. Perez, distinguished friends from Venezuela and from my own country:

It is a great honor and a pleasure for us—my wife, my daughter, and I—to be here with you.

I speak a little better Spanish than I understand, and I may have gotten a few words of the President incorrectly, and I'm sure he'll correct me tomorrow morning if I make a mistake. But I would like to thank him for his offer to reduce the price of oil 5 percent each year for the next 5 years and to lend the United States enough to balance our budget next year. Thank you very much, Mr. President. [Laughter]

I cannot hope to match the richness and the profound remarks of President Perez. I will try to respond more fully to economic matters in my speech tomorrow morning to the Congress of Venezuela. But tonight, I do want to offer a few comments of my own.

As I said, I'm delighted to be with friends in Venezuela, not only because of the path that our nations are walking together but also because of the rare, personal friendship that has developed between President Perez and me.

Since I took office, I've had an opportunity to meet with many foreign leaders—last year, more than 65. And in different ways, I have learned a lot about them all. But there are no others who have equaled the guidance and the vision of President Perez, nor with whom I have felt such kinship of purpose. It is no coincidence that this is the third opportunity which I have arranged for extensive consultations with him.

President Perez knows that I look upon him, in spite of his great youth, as a senior statesman. And he deserves this title in the finest sense of the term, for he has proven his statesmanship and also the maturity of his judgment.

The most satisfying aspect of our friendship is that it clearly reflects the compatibility between our governments and also between our people.

Venezuela proclaims its belief that the cause of human rights must and will prevail, and we agree. Venezuelans are working to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and so are we.

The leaders of your country believe that each nation of the world should be free to manage its own internal affairs, free from unwarranted outside intervention, and the same belief exists among the leaders of our people in the United States.

We both believe that people in every part of the world, under every economic system, should have democratic rights to participate in their own government and to shape their own destiny. We both know that nations with wealth to spare have an obligation to share it. And here, as in other areas, Venezuela has set an example for us to try to equal. We both are aware of the increasing sense of regional need and common purpose that exists among the nations of the Caribbean and of that nation's tremendous potential for future growth and harmony.

Venezuela and the United States are both attempting to restrict the excessive trade in weapons and to reduce the arsenals which already exist, and we will redouble our common efforts in the near future to realize this hope.

We both believe that nations must cooperate in the world's energy problems through conservation, better distribution, research and development, and exploration of new energy sources. We both believe that direct consultations and negotiations among nations can resolve even major differences and are the surest path to peace.

We both have learned through happy experience that exchanges among our people, especially students, can build permanent bonds of understanding between us.

Venezuela again has shown how these bonds are built with the Ayacucho Foundation, which permits students from each country to study in the other. Because of this visit and others on my journey, and in memory of your friend, our great American statesman, Hubert Humphrey, I would like to announce tonight my intention to establish a program of Humphrey scholarships which will bring poor but outstanding students from Latin America and throughout the world to study in the colleges of the United States.

In this spirit of harmony and obvious cooperation, in the warmth of personal friendship which I feel around us tonight, I offer a toast to the leader and to the nation with whom we share so much and from whom we learn so much.

To President Perez and to the people of the great nation of Venezuela.

Note: The President spoke at 8:40 p.m. at La Casona in response to a toast by President Perez.

Jimmy Carter, Toast at a State Dinner in Caracas, Venezuela Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244741

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