Franklin D. Roosevelt

Toast at the State Dinner for the President of Cuba

December 08, 1942

Back in March, 1933, there was some talk about our relationship with our neighbors, which I suppose includes not only our farthest neighbors, say in the Argentine, but also the nearest neighbor we have, in Cuba.

Everybody in this country at least, and I think in other parts of the world, appreciated the ideal of the Good Neighbor. But they were words only; the ideal had never been fulfilled. And in the summer of 1933 there were many reasons for it. And then there was serious trouble in our nearest neighbor.

The main point I want to make is that when these troubles occurred in Havana, an unprecedented meeting was called at the Executive Offices. At that meeting we had all the Ambassadors and Ministers of all the American Republics.

And I said to them, speaking as a liberal, and very simply, "I think the time has come to recognize the practical exposition of the Good Neighbor Policy. I want to take this occasion to tell you that under a somewhat ancient treaty between the United States and Cuba we are compelled by that treaty, known as the Platt Amendment, to go into Cuba—a land of free people, and one we helped to free and set up as a sovereign Nation-and restore order."

And I said, "Gentlemen, I am not going to do it. I am not going to apply the Platt Amendment. I am not going to send either the Army or the Navy to restore order in Cuba."

Well, there was a lifting of eyebrows among a good many of these nineteen other envoys. What is this new President of the United States going to do?

I said, "I am going to exercise the Good Neighbor Policy, because this is the first chance I have to put it into practical effect. If any Americans want to leave Cuba, they will have every opportunity. If any Americans want to get out, they can go down to the nearest port, and they will find a revenue cutter or a patrol boat of some kind that will take them on board and take them out. I am not going to land a single American soldier or sailor on the soil of the Cubans. I think this is an internal matter, which Cuba is fully competent to settle."

Well, that was the beginning. I think the Bible says, "By their fruits shall ye know them."

And that particular act, throughout all the American Republics, did have an effect, because the United States proved in a practical way that it could apply the doctrine of the Good Neighbor.

Somebody in the paper, a few days ago, called it by a new term, which I think is rather good; he called it not just the policy of the Good Neighbor, but the policy of the Good Partner. In other words, all of these Republics of ours are not just neighbors. We are partners for the common good- all of us.

We are recognizing more and more that the word "partner" means that any country—on either hemisphere—cannot be happy and prosperous until all the hemisphere is happy and prosperous; that if one Nation of the 21—of the 22, if we include our neighbor Canada- is unhappy and full of unrest, in a serious depression which affects the lives of all their people, that that affects the happiness and the prosperity of all the other 20, or 21.

And on this dais I see a young man, and I think he had a vision. He was an Army officer, and he took part in that revolution of 1933 in a very modest way. Today the Cuban people are very happy that he is holding the office of Chief Magistrate of the Republic of Cuba.

And so while he is not entirely a stranger with us—he has been here before- we received him as a Major General in command of the Armies of Cuba—we are now very happy to have him come back to us as the President of our nearest neighbor, the Republic of Cuba; and I drink his health.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Toast at the State Dinner for the President of Cuba Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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