John F. Kennedy photo

Toast of the President at a Dinner at the Casa Presidencial in San Jose

March 18, 1963

[The White House Official Reporter noted that the microphones were turned on late and the opening sentences of the salutation were therefore missed.]

. . I know that, as the President of Costa Rica said today, we were anxious that this affair not be merely a ceremonial visit, and there may be occasions when you may wonder whether a 2-day meeting would bring results that would be worthwhile.

I think one of the most important effects has been that it has turned the attention of the United States Government, Members of the Congress who accompanied me here, and who are as concerned as I am about our relations with Central America, it has brought the attention of the Government and the Congress to Central America and the great problems which remain unsolved.

The United States had a long history of isolation which was ended by the Second War, and since the Second War we have been bearing the burdens around the world which may, on occasions, have fatigued us. I think that this visit here--a reminder of the tremendously important unfinished problems, the challenges, which face us here, in our own hemisphere, among our good neighbors--is a very welcome reminder to me as President, and certainly, I think, to all of us as citizens of the United States.

This does represent the most direct challenge that the free world has, I believe, here in Central America and in Latin America. I want all of you gentlemen to know that we will do everything we possibly can to meet our responsibilities in the solution of those problems.

We are very grateful to you and to the people of Costa Rica. All of us in America are daily thrilled and chilled by our correspondents who travel through the world describing the great, latent hostilities to America which are felt by 'people all around, from Canada to the Argentine, so this comes as a rather agreeable shock when we get smiled at, as we were today.

In any case, I hope that members of the United States will join me in drinking to the people of Central America and Panama, and to the very good health of our friends, the Presidents, who have stood with the United States in the cause of freedom on many occasions and to whom we express our very warm sentiments of appreciation.

Gentlemen, to your health.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a dinner given in his honor by President Luis Somoza of Nicaragua.

John F. Kennedy, Toast of the President at a Dinner at the Casa Presidencial in San Jose Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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