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Toasts of President Reagan and President Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Ivory Coast at the State Dinner

June 07, 1983

President Reagan. President and Mrs. Houphouet-Boigny, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it's a special pleasure for me to welcome our guest of honor this evening.

During the 1980 campaign I suggested that the United States should return to some of the basics of free enterprise—policies that would encourage individual responsibility, hard work, and investment. It's taken time, but we're at last overcoming the economic uncertainty that we inherited. I'll have to admit I've always been confident that we would. I just kept telling myself, "It worked in Ivory Coast, didn't it?" [Laughter]

Seriously, though, Mr. President, your many successes haven't gone unnoticed here in the United States. Unlike many other countries, some of which are far richer in natural resources, you Chose the high road of political and economic freedom. In doing so, you've made Ivory Coast a shining example to the rest of Africa and the world.

Mr. President, your wisdom has been a guiding light for your people and a beacon of reason and modernization in the world arena. You are a leader who stresses dialog as a means of solving even the most vexing problems. You advocate compromise over confrontation, conciliation over conflict. Your humane and democratic values reflect well on the people of Ivory Coast.

During our discussions today we touched on many mutual areas of concern, especially those dealing with the promotion of economic growth. The President had been forced to make tough decisions concerning government spending. Well, I can identify with that. [Laughter] And I deeply admire his farsighted commitment to the long-range interests of his people. Today we're confident that closeness and interaction between our two peoples can be nothing but a blessing for us all.

So, I ask you now to join me in a toast to President Houphouet-Boigny and to the continued friendship between our two peoples that his visit attests to.

President Houphouet. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, allow me first of all to thank you for your warm welcome and for all the thoughtfulness that has been shown us since our arrival here. I should also like to express to you our sincere gratitude for your kind words describing Ivory Coast policies and for having affirmed so clearly your desire to develop our cooperation.

One of your predecessors remarked that history has given the United States the role of being either a witness to the failure of freedom or the architect of its triumph. I can only subscribe to that fine thought. Yet the extent of your commitments, the immense responsibility they imply, even for the most powerful nation in the world, might have led me to fear that in a time of crisis, when, especially in your own hemisphere as well as in Asia and the Middle East, problems as worrisome as they are sensitive require all or your vigilance and that of the team around you. I might have feared that your attention might have been diverted from the seemingly less pressing problems of Africa. It was therefore most reassuring for me to note your determination to help Africa to regain its peace and to achieve a prosperity that seems discouragingly ever more remote.

You, Mr. President, said on February 13, 1980, that the United States has an obligation to its citizens and to the people of the world never to let those who would destroy freedom dictate the future course of human existence on our planet. There is no lack of opportunity for the enemies of freedom who find, in poverty and ignorance, the best fuel for their sinister designs. It is, therefore, important not to neglect any political, social, economic, educational, or cultural sector—any country, and region, any society where there may develop and explode the kind of conflicts that the enemies of freedom provoke or sustain. And since prevention is better than cure, one must also be certain not to allow the perpetuation of unjust situations that foster them.

To be sure, you, Mr. President, have consistently stressed the need for individuals, like nations, to take their problems into their own hands, to assume responsibility for their own future, and to cease to rely solely on assistance, as some at times are all too pleased to do.

In Ivory Coast we have always urged our fellow citizens to rely first and foremost on themselves. But no one can deny that there are individuals and there are nations that are handicapped and cannot emerge from their tragic situation without aid—extended aid. Nor can anyone deny that the world today finds itself in the absurd situation of wasting money on ever more costly weapons-sums of money which, compared to which the amounts of money that go for development assistance, are pitifully small.

And the situation is aggravated by the constant threat of insecurity, which compels the developing nations that have modest, indeed, even inadequate resources to fight simultaneously on two fronts: the development front and the security front, with development too often having to be sacrificed for the sake of security. So, what the developing countries and Africa, in particular, need most is peace and stability, the precondition for any harmonious development.

You, the American people, are the best equipped to recognize the lack of progress of countries that do not enjoy political stability and which are becoming increasingly serious threats to world peace. The best factor for peace is the well-being, the happiness of peoples. Peace and well-being are inseparable.

The West has the means to lend effective assistance to Africa, but that aid will be for naught if our own production efforts are constantly ruined by speculators. To be sure, Africa at present only accounts for 2 percent of world trade. That is not a great deal; we recognize that. But that is the Africa of today. It is not the Africa of tomorrow, the Africa of the future, the Africa we want to build with the West, drawing on our own efforts. Our potential is great.

I should like to quote here that masterpiece of Alexis de Tocqueville, "Democracy in America." In his conclusion he wrote, "I am filled with fears and filled with hopes. I see great evils that can be avoided or contained, and I am becoming ever more firm in my conviction that in order to be honest and prosperous, the democratic nations have only to determine that they will be so."

I could not conclude more fittingly, Mr. President, than by expressing our confidence in the democratic nations, among which the United States holds the most important place.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would ask you to please join with me in a toast to President Ronald Reagan and to Mrs. Reagan to whom I present my most respectful and heartfelt compliments, and also to the happiness and to the prosperity of the great people of the United States and to the friendship between the United States and the Ivory Coast.

Thank you.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 9:33 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. President Houphouet spoke in French, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts of President Reagan and President Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Ivory Coast at the State Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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