Richard Nixon photo

Toasts at a Dinner Honoring Latin American and Caribbean Foreign Ministers

April 17, 1974

Your Excellencies, the Foreign Ministers and the Ambassadors from the Latin American countries and the Caribbean countries:

I wish I could address you in the language which most of you understand and speak so well, but I would not presume to do so. Consequently, tonight I will have Mr. Barnes, who speaks English better than he speaks Spanish and Spanish better than he speaks English, translate for me.

I will simply open this comment with regard to our relations with one of the few Spanish phrases I think I know reasonably well. Mrs. Nixon and I say, estan ustedes en su casa [you are in your home].

As you went through the receiving line tonight, my wife and I shared many memories with you. It was 34 years ago that we had our wedding trip in Mexico. Obviously, she was much younger than I was at that time. And our distinguished Secretary of State followed our example, because he just had his honeymoon in Mexico, too, and we welcome Mrs. Nancy Kissinger on her first visit as the wife of the Secretary of State tonight. She is a little liberal, but otherwise, she is all right. Don't interpret the word "liberal" literally, please.

After that first trip 34 years ago, we returned again to the Caribbean and to Central America for a trip which took us to eight countries in that area in 1941. The other events come tumbling over: the attendance at the inauguration of Ruiz Cortines in Mexico in 1953 [1952], a trip to Mexico and all the Central American countries in 1955, and then a trip through all the South American countries in 1958, and then as private citizens returning to Mexico on our 25th wedding anniversary in 1965, and in 1967, a tour which took me to virtually all the countries of South America.

Now, my only regret is that in this travelog that I have just gone over, I have not had the opportunity---except for Mexico, our great friends and neighbors to the south--to visit the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. But I believe I have sent our best ambassador there in my stead.

Mrs. Nixon's visit to Peru at the time of the earthquake and then her recent visit to Caracas and to Brasilia for the inaugurations, I think, indicated that the one who was closest to my heart could win the hearts of the people of Latin America.

As you can tell, I probably, as a result of this, am the first President of the United States ever to have visited all the nations of Latin America before entering this office. And while traveling alone is not significant, these travels do indicate, it seems to me, the measure of the affection and esteem which not only my wife and I but all Americans continue to have for our neighbors in the Americas.

Let me speak very frankly about the relations between the United States and our friends to the south. During these past 30 years, we have heard an enormous amount of rhetoric about the relationships between our countries. There have been almost as many slogans as conferences, and too often, both have been quickly filed away and forgotten.

Now, in the past 6 months, the United States has proposed a new approach, what we call "a new dialog." It was discussed in New York, again in Bogota, then in Mexico City, now in Washington.

Now, after so many trial runs, we think this one is here to stay.

But, you could very well ask, why will our "new dialog" be any better than the old ones? Why will the future be any different from the past, when the United States so often seemed to ignore its friends to the south?

Let me answer that very directly. Over the past 5 years, I have seen that the winds of change are blowing strongly across the entire world today. In fact, initiatives undertaken by the United States have helped those winds along their way.

There is one great lesson that all of us, large and small whatever our nations may be, must learn. The nations of the world can no longer ignore each other, whether we like it or not. A decision by an oil producer in the Middle East has a direct impact upon the supplies of gasoline and fertilizer in the West.

A decision by a wheat grower in the great northern plains of North America can make the difference between full and empty stomachs, not only in the south of the world but also in the east and west.

Independence, a proud concept, has given away to interdependence. The past has given away to a new way of life. And the critical question now is whether we return to the past--it is too late for that-but how we shape the future.

Now, there are some that argue that every nation must now fend for itself in a narrow struggle for survival, setting man against man, nation against nation, bloc against bloc. That, in my opinion, would lead to the eventual collapse of Western civilization as we have known it.

We propose instead that we meet the reality of interdependence by following a different path--a higher road of cooperation and of collaboration. It will be more strenuous, it will require more patience, it may even be more expensive in the short run, but eventually we believe it will lead to a better life for all of our people in every nation.

Now, this, in essence, is the meaning of the "new dialog" we are calling for. It is more than a slogan, it is more than just more talk; it signifies a new attitude, a new desire to join with you in seeking out that high road of cooperation and growth for all of the nations in the Americas.

And going now from words to actions, let me be more concrete about what you may expect from the United States in this new endeavor.

Speaking personally, and speaking also about the world in which we live, the greatest gift I hope to leave to my countrymen and to the world is a legacy of peace. It is our desire for peace that has been the foundation for our new relationships with the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, and which shapes our relationships with other nations.

And our relationships with Latin America are a central pillar in the structure of peace we are trying to build for the whole world. And it would be our hope that we could work more closely with you in maintaining peace beyond our hemisphere and that we could continue to work with you in keeping the peace in our hemisphere.

On the political side, you can expect that the United States will not seek to impose its political preferences on your countries; that is your decision. We will not intervene in the domestic affairs of others in this hemisphere.

And finally, and of keen interest tonight, we have a mutual interest in economic growth and prosperity for all the nations in this hemisphere. There is just as much at stake for the United States as for the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, and I reaffirm my pledge to work directly with you in the areas of greatest concern. Let me enumerate them:

We will continue to seek trade legislation which will permit generalized trade preferences, a concept that I have supported for years.

We will seek cooperative solutions to our energy problems, and we shall share our resources and our research with you.

We will seek better ways to pool our knowledge of science and technology.

We will seek to maintain our level of aid.

We will seek to consult more closely with you on international trade and monetary affairs.

And we will continue to encourage the growth of private capital in ways that are mutually acceptable.

We recognize that each government in this hemisphere has the sovereign right to determine the rules for investors in its country.

But speaking from experience, we also believe that private investment is the richest potential source of the technology, the capital, the organizational skills that the developing world needs.

For example, the amount of private capital that flows to Latin America today is over twice as much as the amount of public capital. We must recognize that many of the nations which enjoyed the fastest rates of economic expansion have had the benefit of intensive infusions of private capital as well as public.

This, then, is a summary of the "new dialog"--peace, political freedom, economic growth. The road ahead will not be easy. It has never been traveled before, and it is only dimly perceived. The pessimists predict we will lose our way, because they say our civilization is entering a new age of darkness.

Let us prove to them, all of us, what we know in our hearts: We are indeed entering a new age, but what we see is not a setting but a rising sun, a new dawn for the Americas.
I have often been asked, after my trips to Peking and to Moscow, to Europe, to Southeast Asia, whether this means a downgrading of our interest in our friends in the American hemisphere.

Let me assure you tonight, nothing could be further from the truth, because the new initiatives we have undertaken in these past 5 years are essential if we are to have world peace. If we have world peace, all of the people in the Americas will benefit. And if we have world war, all of the peoples in the Americas will suffer.

And that is why I say tonight, let us join together in these initiatives to seek to build a new structure of peace, not only for ourselves but the whole world. And whatever success we have in this direction will benefit us all.

And now tonight in proposing a toast, I cannot propose it to any individual because all are of equal rank, but I remember that when I visited my friend Galo Plaza1 at his farm, he used a wonderful expression that I think is the proper expression I should use in proposing the toast tonight.

This man, that I have just made an all-American football player 30 years after he played football at the University of California, which will put him in the Hall of Fame--[laughter]--spoke very feelingly about California, the State in which he got his higher education, and his own country.

And he said what we must all understand is that despite our differences in background, despite our differences in language, despite our differences in culture, and despite our difference in political ideology, we are all one family, we are all proud members of the American family.

So, it is in. that spirit that I propose the toast. La familia Americana.

And now to our very special guests, if you will be seated again, it was very difficult to select the individual from this distinguished group who would respond to the toast. We did not flip coins, so we went to seniority. That does not mean that seniority means senility, but one thing I learned and Mrs. Nixon learned in our travels through the countries to the south is that while there are very many, and most speak the same language, each has it own character, each is quite different, and each is very proud of its own background, and that diversity must never change.

And so, we call upon not the largest country here, we call upon one that is one of the smaller countries, but it is a country we remember well, not that it is not and should not be known for other things. I refer to that nation where the lovely ladies do the bottle dance.

Our distinguished guest, the Foreign Minister of Paraguay.

[At this point, Foreign Minister Rafil Sapend Pastor responded to the President's remarks. The President then resumed speaking.]

To all of our distinguished guests, we realize that you have come a long way, most of you, and that tomorrow you will be going to Atlanta, and I would simply like to bring this historic occasion historic at least for us who are honored to be your host--to a conclusion with these words:

This house is not an old house when you compare it with the great houses of Europe, of Asia, of the Mideast, even of Latin America. It was planned by George Washington, and every President since Washington has lived here.

And I think it is fair to say that every President of the United States has had a dream about his own country and about the world. Some have been more successful in interpreting that dream than others. But all have tried, because they know that that dream represents what the American people, the people of this country, of the United States, feel in their hearts.

It was summarized perhaps best by Thomas Jefferson when, at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, he said, we act not just for ourselves, but for the whole human race.

Now, to some contemporary observers at that time and some at this time, that would seem in retrospect to have been a very arrogant statement. But speaking for all of the people of the United States of America, let me say to you that I know our people, I know how they feel.

We are strong now, whereas compared with at the beginning, we were very weak. We are rich now, when compared with at the very beginning, we were very poor. But it is our great desire to share whatever we have in terms of development with all the peoples of the world and, particularly, with our closest friends and neighbors, and to use whatever our strength is and whatever our wealth is, not only to build a world of peace, peace in the sense of absence of war, but peace in terms of progress and development for all people wherever they may be.

That was the dream of those who founded this country. That was the dream of those who founded your countries. We are all part--as old as we are--we are all part of a new world, and together we can build a new world for all people who live on this Earth.

And in this room that has seen the great leaders of the world pass through it over 175 years, it is well to conclude by saying that the hopes of all the people of the world--not just the Americas but all the people of the world--for peace, for progress, for opportunity, lie with our solidarity, with our unity, and with our vision. And may the historians one day record that we, the inheritors of the new world, helped to build, not only for ourselves but for the whole world, a structure of peace and progress for all.

And it is in that spirit that I respond to the very eloquent remarks of the Foreign Minister from Paraguay.

And with those words, Mrs. Nixon and I will now, according to protocol, leave the room. We understand that refreshments are still available, and for those who like to, even dancing. And for those who haven't airplane reservations for Atlanta, we can provide a bus. [Laughter]

1 Secretary General, Organization of American States.

Note: The President spoke at 9:25 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. An advance text of his remarks was released on the same day.

The foreign ministers were attending informal meetings at the State Department, held on April 17 and 18, 1974, prior to the opening of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States in Atlanta, Ga., on April 19.

Foreign Minister Sapena Pastor responded to the President's remarks in Spanish. His remarks were translated by an interpreter as follows:

Your Excellency Richard Nixon, President of the United States of America, Your Excellency Mrs. Nixon, Your Excellencies ladies and gentlemen:

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean have conferred upon me the extraordinary honor of replying to your words. Aware of this great responsibility, I assume this mandate, shielded by the magnitude of what I represent.

The history of inter-American relations will record as a very fortunate initiative of yours, Your Excellency President Richard Nixon, to have instructed the Secretary of State, Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, to invite the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and representatives of the countries of Latin America and of the Caribbean that were attending the 28th period of Regular Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, to a meeting which was held on October 5, 1973, and to there suggest the initiation of a "new dialog" to deal with matters of interest for the American continent.

It is true that as close as we were and as united by common bonds and interests in the destiny of the continent and of the world, however, we lived at a distance in the consideration and the treatment of those things which are basic and vital to our civilization.

And for one part, there was a United States of America, the leading world power, which had achieved the highest levels of standards of living for its people while at the same time having to be concerned and to take care of problems and situations scattered throughout the globe, situations of every order and nature, at every distance, and of the most varied degrees of seriousness, and on the other hand, all of the nations of Latin America and of the Caribbean with different degrees of development, deprived to larger or lesser degree of the financial and technological means necessary to increase their economic, social, educational, cultural, scientific, health, and technological conditions.

The idea of this "new dialog" was immediately taken up by all of the American nations, and the distinguished Foreign Minister of Colombia, Alfredo Vazquez Carrizosa, on behalf of his government issued an invitation to the meeting of Bogota held in November of 1973 where there was an exhaustive debate before establishment of the items on which the usefulness of a dialog was established.

Thus came about the Conference of Tlatelolco, held in February of 1974, where under the skillful and enlightened leadership of the Foreign Minister of Mexico, Don Emilio Rabasa, and this time with the presence of the Secretary of State of the United States of America, the dynamic and clearly successful international negotiator, Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, there was an advanced consensus achieved on the solutions to the subjects brought up at Bogota.

Among the positive results of Tlatelolco, there are two that are very important, but that were not even included in the agenda. The first is having converted this "new dialog" offered in October of 1973 into a continuous process of consultation. The second, which is the birth of what we have come to call the "Spirit of Tlatelolco," which is a new state of feeling among all of the nations of the Americas who commit themselves to work with faith and will in a coordinated and joint action in order to achieve the harmonious development of all the nations.

Development in all its aspects has to be the basic theme of the process of consultation that we have established. It has been said that the new name for peace is "development." In reality, there is so much overlapping between both terms that just as we cannot have development without peace, we also cannot conceive of peace without development.

Mr. President, this splendid setting that you are offering to the Foreign Ministers of the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean undoubtedly is not the propitious time to refer to generalized preferred tariffs, to financial assistance, to the transference of technology, to monetary reform, to tariff and nontariff barriers, to the net transfer of real resources, and to many other items which will appear in the agendas in this continued process of consultation until they are definitely resolved.

But if what separates us is not geographic distance, but rather the differences in the degree of development, necessarily we must agree that our main fundamental concern should concentrate and give priority to the structure of international trade and the monetary system.

And so the present and unfair terms of trade dealing with our raw materials vis-a-vis manufactured products, a trade that takes place not only with the United States of America but with the entire industrialized world, this is what generates the differences in development that create artificial distances and obstacles of all kinds in the relations between our peoples.

I have the conviction that the day that our nations of Latin America and the Caribbean receive fair and equitable prices for their labor and their products, there will be a reduction in the clamor for financial loans, and technology will be just another product that we can purchase and pay for and not assistance or a favor that we want to receive.

In this task, the nations of Latin America and of the Caribbean expect to continue counting on the firm cooperation of the United States Government, a cooperation that we have seen already in the dialog and in the consultations with Secretary of State Kissinger.

Mr. President, even though the meeting of foreign ministers that we are holding here in Washington is in appearance unrelated to the Fourth Period of Sessions of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, which will begin on April 19 in Atlanta, although this first meeting is informal and noninstitutionalized and the second one will be formal and will follow treaties and instruments that are in effect, it is obvious that we cannot separate one from another and even more obvious that the subject of the restructuring of the inter-American system will appear on both agendas.

I have the honor to express to you, Mr. President, that the nations of Latin America and of the Caribbean harbor the hope that as a result of the restructuring of the inter-American system, that more dynamic instruments may come into being that will permit a better and faster achievement of development of all nations, that will embody all of the rights, assurances, and protection deserved by persons and states, that will stimulate what Secretary of State Kissinger has called a friendship based on equality and respect for the dignity of each one and a new inter-American system, in short, that will be able to be imbued with and which we will decide to translate into this symbol of faith which we have come to call the "Spirit of Tlatelolco."

Your Excellency President Richard Nixon, I interpret the sentiments of all my colleagues, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, in expressing to you the deepest appreciation and esteem with which we have followed your admirable and tenacious efforts in favor of a world peace and for the reduction of international tensions.

In thanking you on behalf of all the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the nations of Latin America and of the Caribbean for the many and very fine attentions which we have been receiving from your Government, I would like to express our best wishes for the ever-increasing greatness and prosperity of the United States of America, for the personal good fortune of yourself and of Mrs. Nixon, and to the fact that the happiness of all of our peoples be achieved by means of a global development which will make possible dignified international relations based on respect and equality.

To your health, Mr. President.

Richard Nixon, Toasts at a Dinner Honoring Latin American and Caribbean Foreign Ministers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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