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Toasts at a Dinner Honoring President Lopez Portillo in Mexico City, Mexico

February 16, 1979

PRESIDENT CARTER. President Lopez Portillo, my good friend Carmen,1 on my left, friends from North America and also from Mexico:

We are very delighted to have you here with us as our guests tonight.

You have been blessed this evening with two beautiful concerts, the one that just concluded, and the remarkable performance by Leonard Bernstein and the beautiful musicians from Mexico City.

We have been blessed by three concerts, those two, plus the 2-hour contest between Bernstein and Lopez Portillo- [laughter] —as to who could remember-and I don't know a different word for "sing"—the songs from Latin America in Spanish. [Laughter]

I would like to say just a very few words, because Leonard Bernstein has asked me to keep my toasts brief [Laughter]

Mr. President, the relationship between our two countries is one of the most complex and one of the most intimate in all the world.

The border between our two countries is 2,000 miles long—3,000 kilometers-one of the longest undefended borders on Earth.

I'm committed to working with you, Mr. President, to create a framework of a relationship between our two peoples that's based on the principles of understanding, balance, and mutual cooperation.

We have much work to do in resolving specific interrelationships between our countries. But perhaps the greatest challenge that we face is to adopt attitudes toward each other that are based not on the past, but on the realities of the present and the needs of the future.

Mr. President, I've thought carefully about your remarks yesterday, and I would like to respond with the same degree of frankness and of friendship.

The people of the United States are fair and decent people in their relationships with each other and in dealing with people of other nations. We always try to negotiate with others in a spirit of candor and friendship.

We always believe it's best to recognize honest differences, to assess problems realistically and without fear or suspicion, and to work in harmony with our friends to solve those problems and to take advantage of common opportunities.

Each of us, as leaders, has a primary responsibility to represent the interests of our own people. Naturally, this leads to differences in perspective and differences of opinion as we do discuss complicated issues. Our discussions on this visit have been very productive. And we now have an even better prospect of resolving those inevitable differences which have sometimes been obstacles to further progress for many generations. We know that questions involving energy, trade, immigration, transportation, and fisheries are not easy to answer. But we are determined, working together, to succeed.

Mr. President, in your memorable speech to the Congress of the United States 2 years ago, you said something that bears repeating tonight. You said, and I would like to read your words, "It is difficult to be the neighbor of a nation as powerful as yours. We run two grave risks: arrogance, which is easy but sterile, and submission, which is easy but abject. We have chosen instead the difficult path of dignity, based on the liberty we want to maintain and the responsibility which we wish to assume."

That was a perceptive statement, Mr. President. And I would say in reply that it is sometimes difficult to be the neighbor of a nation such as yours— [laughter] —a nation of rapid change and development, a nation whose new economic power obliges its leaders to make difficult choices and to accept greatly expanded responsibilities.

To conclude, Mr. President, let me say that I agree that we must not go down the path of arrogance or the path of submission. Instead, I'm confident that we will walk with you on the path of dignity, toward a future of independence, sovereignty, cooperation, mutual respect, and peace.

And now I would like to propose a toast: First, to the health of President Lopez Portillo and Mrs. Lopez Portillo; second, to the friendship of two great nations, the Republic of Mexico and the United States of America; and to a better life for all people in our two nations and throughout the world. Salud.

Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT LOPEZ PORTILLO. Mr. President of the United States, Mrs. Carter, my friends:

Similarly to what was done by Mr. Carter, I wish to begin to speak by paying homage to genius. I wish to say that many, many years ago, I was present at the first performance when the musical selection "Salon Mexico," by Copland, was played many years ago. Since then, I have heard it many times. But I want to say that it was tonight that I really discovered this piece. It was due to the genius of this man,2 who made me discover the message that has been sent to us by the author, all the tenderness, all the violence, all the strength, all the graciousness, and all the intent of what used to happen in the Salon Mexico, the Salon Mexico to which I went sometimes as a youth. [Laughter]

All of this was what I discovered this evening in this extraordinary interpretation. I am not speaking about the other musical selections, because—and what I'm going to say now will only be understood by the people that are sitting around this table—I do not want to extend a—[inaudible]. [Laughter]

Mr. President, for us, your visit has been extremely important. You and your associates have been very friendly and very patient. Our friendship has made it possible for us to be frank. And it is a beautiful thing when human beings can communicate among themselves with frankness and openly, even if they have differences as the differences that exist between our two peoples.

You are very right; it is difficult for us to live next to the most powerful country in the world. It must be very difficult for you also to live next to a poor country and a developing one.

Things happen, and at times such as this one, it would be well to remember what was said by the classics in order to make an effort to bring harmony to the world in accordance with the principles that they advocated. Aristotle said that after the ideal state of Plato, very objectively and very realistically, he conceived of a society in which there would be no men that would be rich enough to buy other men and men so poor that they would have to sell themselves.

This, Mr. President, I believe, is the most serious matter of our times—the fact that there are men that can buy men and that there are men that have to sell themselves. And this is what happens very frequently with our poor people that go to the United States.

I confess, Mr. President, that I am deeply moved, and I shall try to be more stable.

But I must reflect upon the fact that we are living in a world of inequalities-that almost all political systems have been capable of denouncing these evils, but we have not had the capability of taking to practice the solutions that we have proposed.

And I wish to bring up a matter which I confess concerns me deeply. What is happening to the free world? Where has freedom led us?

And this is a matter that I wish to bring up and to state as one of the most serious questions that can be asked of the Mexican revolution. We belong to the world of free democracies. It is a political system that would want to bring together liberty and justice. But, ladies and gentlemen, many times when we wished to uphold freedom, we had to sacrifice justice. And we must ask ourselves, "What have we done with our freedom?" Other countries, in order to obtain justice, in turn sacrificed freedom. No doubt they will have to ask themselves, "What have we done with justice?"

We would want to believe that there would be some kind of an order that could be established in the world in which it would be possible to have both values. And that is why we want to state this, for me, very serious question: Is it possible for the human being to be free and at the same time to be just? Is it possible to conceive of an international order that can avoid the state of affairs in which a man would sell himself and another one would buy another human being? When the question is asked by a theoretician, it is a good statement. But when it is asked by a statesman that has specific functions to perform, it becomes a tremendous responsibility.

I feel this responsibility. Convinced as I am of the great values of Western culture, certain as I am that it is impossible to live without freedom, there is no other alternative left but to make an effort to find the roads that will lead to justice. And this can only be found if we conceive of life among nations as a series of rights and duties, to find the people responsible without pointing a finger of guilt.

And I believe, Mr. President, that during the talks that we had yesterday and today, I believe that we have made statements and posed questions in such a manner as to feel satisfied. We have simply proposed those matters. We have simply brought them up. We have not opened up the road to their solution. But this does point a finger in the right direction.

From you and your associates, Mr. President, we have received great understanding as regards what troubles us. We have agreed that human rights are of fundamental importance. And we have expressed our will to decide all the matters that were included in our very broad agenda. And I believe that a very good way to begin is to express our will to do so, to commit our intelligence and our good faith. And I believe that this is what we have been able to do during our meetings, commit our intelligence and our good faith.

This is what I have understood this fruitful dialog to mean, a dialog which we have agreed to continue within a very short time.

Until that time comes, Mr. President, until our associates are able to clear the way, let us, Mr. President, keep alive our willingness to live in freedom and, without losing this freedom, resolve the very serious problems of international coexistence.

There is no other way but to respect values. For that great purpose, Mr. President, for the effort that you are making in your willingness to have human rights prevail in the world, for your expressed will to decide problems which are so difficult between two countries such as ours, for the merit it means to be fair when you are strong, I wish to raise my glass and offer a toast to your health, to the health of your wife, and to the great people of the United States.

Thank you.

1 Mrs. Lopez Portillo.

2 President Lopez Portillo was referring to Mr. Bernstein.

Note: President Carter spoke at 12 midnight at the U.S. Ambassador's residence. President Lopez Portillo spoke in Spanish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Earlier in the evening, President Carter and President Lopez Portillo attended a performance of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Mexico City at the Teatro de la Ciudad.

Jimmy Carter, Toasts at a Dinner Honoring President Lopez Portillo in Mexico City, Mexico Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248762

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