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Toasts of the President and President Alessandri

December 11, 1962

Mr. President:

I want to express a very warm welcome to you, to the Foreign Minister, the Finance Minister, to the Senator, to the other members of your party to our house here in Washington and to our country.

Mr. President, we are involved, and not merely because of our geographic links, Chile and the United States and indeed all of the members of this hemisphere are involved in a great enterprise, which is to demonstrate that countries facing the very serious problems which all of our countries face internally can through a system of freedom and a system of democracy successfully solve these problems and demonstrate that not only can people live more happily in freedom, but can also live more prosperously. I think that this is an important point.

We believe strongly in democracy and personal freedom, but I also strongly believe, and I think the other responsible leaders in this hemisphere strongly believe, that through a system of national sovereignty and personal independence and personal liberty we can best advance the interest of all of our people. And I think we have the contrasting view not only in this hemisphere, in Central Europe itself, in Asia. I believe that if we master events that this decade can be the proof that through cooperation, through hard work, through sacrifice, we can maintain both our freedom and our well being.

We became involved, Chile and the United States and the other countries of this hemisphere, at Punte del Este, in this great common effort of the Alliance for Progress. I know that there are some who feel that the Alliance for Progress has not been successful, to some degree that the problems in Latin America have become more serious, that the standard of living of the people has not risen. I would give two answers to that: one is that I don't think that people in this country and, indeed, many other countries, have been sufficiently aware of how great was the need for a common, progressive effort, how large is the amount of unfinished business, how limited, in a sense, are the resources which we are able to place in that effort compared, for example, to what this country did at the end of World War II in Europe, which was faced with an immediate crisis, but which had the potentials for a revival which in some ways are stronger than those at present in Latin America. In other words, the problems that we face in this hemisphere are staggering, and require the best from all of us, and I want to assure the President, as I think he knows, that we are and will do everything we possibly can to make sure that the struggle which is being waged on this less dramatic level than the other level which we saw this fall, that this other quieter, less dramatic, but equally important struggle will emerge successfully from this. And I invite not only the people of this country to accept their share of the responsibility, but also our friends in Western Europe who have such an intimate tie with Latin America both historically, ethnically, and culturally. They themselves have a responsibility in this area which I know they will be glad to meet.

And, Mr. President, we are particularly glad, therefore, to welcome you here because of the leadership which you have given, and your associates in the government, untiring effort to improve the life of the people of Chile, the hand of friendship which you've held out to the United States, most especially during the days of the fall.

You come from a family which has been celebrated in the history of your country. The President told me this morning that he and two of his brothers were members of the Chilean Senate at the same time. My view is there shouldn't be such concentration, but he has survived it and maybe others will. [Laughter]

In any case, Mr. President, we are delighted to have you here. These visits turn the attention of both of our governments to the common problems. And I think that this visit of yours to a country which is very far from you geographically, but very close to us on the basic issues, which has maintained since 1810, as I said this morning, a constitutional and responsible and free government, we value that friendship, we value that alliance, and we value very much the long and persistent and untiring efforts which you've waged to improve the life of your people.

So, Mr. President, you are the kind of President that we like to welcome here from the kind of country which we admire. So I know that all of you will join with me in expressing our welcome to the members of the government, our very warm greetings to our friends, their Ambassadors to the United States, and to the OAS, and to the very good health of the people of Chile, and most of all, a very warm toast of greeting to the President.

Note: The President spoke at a luncheon in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his response President Jorge Alessandri Rodriguez expressed confidence that the exchange of views by the two Presidents would bring the two governments to a closer relationship that would be of mutual advantage. "This confidence," he continued, "is strengthened by the similarity of our political systems and the common aspirations of peace and prosperity of our peoples."

"In Chile," he said, "we have fought since our independence for true political freedom, and I believe that in this respect we have a high level of achievement. The ideal of equal opportunities for all citizens of a free country, which comes true by raising the standard of living of its inhabitants so that the differences between rich and poor, cultured and uncultured, healthy and sick, may be reduced to a minimum is at times thwarted by facts that are beyond the good will of governments and peoples, but this problem has reached a critical point. I believe that it is the great challenge of our democracies, and I say democracies because it must be a common undertaking of all of them, to face such a situation.

"Your Government so understands it, and it is my duty to repeat that the United States and its President undertook the task to give form and practical validity to this principle through the Alliance for Progress. The Government of Chile is ready to share its responsibility in such an undertaking, and it is fulfilling its commitments that we, the countries of this hemisphere, assumed at Punta del Este. The duties of government leaders at this time are more urgent than ever before, and our responsibilities compel us to proceed quickly.

"Democratic ideals must be torches that guide, levers that move to action. The time for mere hope is running out and peoples rightly demand what they have a right to ask. It is here where each government, each country, must join efforts in the Common task."

President Alessandri concluded by stating that "my country cannot fail to be on the side of the United States and of all the nations who feel this vocation for democracy as the most effective way to bring well being to our peoples. Chile, who since the dawn of its independence has lived in freedom, would never adjust to a regime that would restrict or extinguish such a freedom."

In the first paragraph President Kennedy referred to Carlos Martinez Sotomayor, Foreign Minister of Chile; Luis Mackenna, Finance Minister of Chile; and Angel Faivovich, member of the Chilean Senate.

John F. Kennedy, Toasts of the President and President Alessandri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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