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Toasts of the President and President Caldera of Venezuela

June 02, 1970

Mr. President, Mrs. Caldera, friends from Venezuela and the United States:

This house--and this very famous room--is honored to have you, Mr. President, and the members of your party here as our guests tonight. I speak first from a personal standpoint, because we are old friends from years before we reached the offices we presently have. We have much in common I should point out to our guests. We both are lawyers. We both like baseball. The President is going to the game tomorrow night, incidentally, to see the great Venezuelan star play for the White Sox against Washington. I don't know which side I am on--tomorrow, maybe the White Sox. Also, we both have the distinction of having run for President and having lost, which proves that having run and having lost does not mean that you may not win at some time in the future.

The President told me that he thought that my election in 1968 was somewhat encouraging to him because our election took place in November, as you may recall, and his took place in December. One of the arguments that his opponents were using against him was that he was a professional politician who had lost before. They said, well, after what happened to Nixon, anybody can win.

We also honor tonight the country the President represents. We honor it as a nation with whom this Nation has had friendly relations for 134 years; a nation-one of the few in the world, Secretary Stans tells me--with which this Nation has a favorable balance of trade, which the President is trying to change, and we wish him well. And we also honor his nation for another reason that in this room it seems appropriate to refer to.

I found that when the President arrived upstairs before coming down to the reception, that he particularly wanted to see the Lincoln Room. Like so many of our friends from the Americas and from the world, he was interested in the Lincoln background. As we were sitting here tonight, looking at this great portrait of Lincoln which hangs in this State Dining Room, I was thinking of those principles which unite two countries and two peoples in this hemisphere, which Lincoln represented and also which are represented by our friends from Venezuela in their history.

The President presented to me before dinner one of the finest and, to me, most appreciated state gifts that I have ever received. It was a replica made by a very famous jeweler in Caracas, a replica of a Washington emblem, a picture of George Washington, which was in 1895 delivered to Simon Bolivar by General Lafayette and was presented to Bolivar by Lafayette on behalf of Washington's grandson. The letters that accompanied the transfer, the fact that Bolivar later wore this tiny medallion with the splendid picture of Washington on it, reminded us that our heritage goes back to the same very sound and great transcendent principles.

We speak different languages in this hemisphere. We represent different cultures. We have different types of music, as we heard a few moments ago. But men like Bolivar and Lincoln and Washington are men that are bigger than Venezuela or the United States. They are as big as America--all the Americas, and as big as the whole world and they belong to the whole world.

Tonight, as we receive the man, the President of the Republic of Venezuela, the birthplace of the liberator, the man who liberated not only Venezuela but Colombia and Peru and Panama--other countries in that area, as we think of what he stood for 134 years ago, what Lincoln stood for and what we believe in today, we realize that despite the difference in distance, in geography, in music, in culture, in language, that we are as one when it comes to our dedication to the right of people to be independent, to be free, to have progress, to have a better life, and to live at peace in this hemisphere without interference from other parts of the world.

Mr. President, your visit reminds us of this common heritage that we share so proudly together. Your visit reminds us also that we must never take it for granted, that we in the Americas must always remember that we are an American family, and that we must find ways to live together and work together and prosper together as a family. I know that your visit will help us in developing those ways better in the future.

I know that all of our guests would agree with me when I say that as we think of you, we think of you representing, as did Bolivar, not just Venezuela but all of our neighbors to the south. And we know that your visit will help us to develop a more effective policy which will meet the great objectives that Bolivar stood for and that Lincoln stood for and George Washington stood for--the policies of peace and friendship and progress for all peoples.

Finally, I would say this: that all of us come from and were born to this world, our nations, through violent revolution. Now our charge and our task is to provide the means and the method through which those great changes that need to be made in the world, in our own countries and in the world, can be made through peaceful change. This is what you stand for, Mr. President, in your country. It is what we work for in our country and we are proud to work with you toward that great goal.

So, I know all of you would like to rise and raise your glasses to His Excellency, the President of Venezuela, and to the friendship of our two peoples.

To President Caldera.

Note: The President spoke at 10:02 p.m. at a dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House.

See also Item 171.

President Rafael Caldera responded in English as follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon:

I should speak in Spanish, it is my language. More or less I have tried to manage it. But I think that we are living in a democracy and I see that here the majority speaks English, and I am going to try to do the same.

In my country there is a popular word. Probably it comes from the French language: monsieur. We call it down there musiu, that one who speaks Spanish with a foreign accent and in not a very correct way. So, I dare to say a few words in English, musiu.

I try to give with this an evidence of courage because after having heard so famous an orator and master of the English language as President Nixon, you must realize how much courage is necessary to try to talk in English.

But I want to say that we are very happy, my wife and I and all the members of my party here, because we have been so kindly received as we were so kindly invited. And for us, this is really a very important item.

I am the chief of state of a small country. We know how modest it is, but we know, too, that in a new world great nations and smaller nations have a role. I know, too, that we belong to a family of nations, Latin America, that considered as a whole represents something for mankind and especially for this hemisphere.

I am coming as a messenger of good will. My country is a peace-loving country. We have had trouble, as everybody in the present world. But a large majority of people--Governor Rockefeller knows them--these fine people, they want to work, to live in peace, and to prosper. They love their country and they are anxious to do the best possible to achieve a development program and to be fully incorporated in the process of civilization.

Today, here, we have been received as friends and we are not going to forget this, Mr. President. Your kind words have been very, very meaningful. You have remembered the name of Bollvat. And, really, when General Lafayette, by commitment of George Washington Custis, in the name of the Washington family, sent in 1825 to Bolivar a miniature, a medallion of Washington, which copy I had the privilege to present to you as a souvenir of my visit, [he] told to him, among the existing men and maybe among the men in history, "I cannot find anyone else to whom General Washington would be so happy to deliver it." I think that means a lot, and it is a sign of perpetual friendship between your great nation and my dear country.

Mr. President, you have also evoked Lincoln's memory. I have told you before coming to this beautiful dinner that you have two treasures that maybe you have not used enough, especially in regard to Venezuela and maybe to other Latin American--but at least to some Caribbean--countries. One of them is Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln means a lot for our people, maybe because down there in Latin America people coming from every angle of the earth, people of much different races, have joined to live together and live in harmony--a representation of the common will of humanity. And Lincoln represents to our people a man who fought for his country and for equality among men, a man who put his ideas forward and who was able to put aside every interest in favor of a belief. So, Lincoln is very and deeply popular in the feeling of our people.

Allow me to pass to a less serious item that you have, another treasure that maybe you have not used enough. It is baseball. It is the most popular game with our people. The most humble of our youngsters in the outskirts of Caracas or maybe in the country knows the names and average of the players of the big leagues, the names of all the teams. And they are proud because Luis Aparicio, the famous shortstop that I hope to see tomorrow playing-and I am sorry it is against the Washington Senators--is among the most outstanding figures; so are Cesar Tovar and Victor Davalillo and some others participating in the big leagues and maybe in the World Series. That is an instrument of understanding that sometimes is not sufficiently used.

And there are many, many more things in common. Naturally, in Venezuela, as in any other part of the world, there are groups, committed groups, that cultivate strategic hatred against the United States. But there is a large feeling of sympathy and there is a long desire of seeing always the United States as the champion of freedom, of peace, of justice.

During the 18th century young men came from different parts of the world looking for liberty here. Lafayette was one. I think he was a little more than 30 years old when he came to become a general during the famous war; so was Kosciusko, the famous Pole, and so was Miranda, a Venezuelan Army officer that, after participating in Florida in the Spanish campaign during your Independence War, went to France and became a general in the Revolutionary Armies during the French Revolution and finally tried to liberate Venezuela and failed and died in Spain in prison.

All those youngsters came looking for liberty, and the United States was known in our countries by our ancestors and by all the world as the leader of a free life, of the rights of citizens, of the first serious experience of the republican system of government, of the democratic system of government, in the modern world.

I am sure that we are living one of the most exciting moments in the history of the world. Naturally exciting and important moments are dangerous ones, are not easy--we have to face them. But the matter is how to carry to our peoples and to every people of the world the faith in the future. It is not possible that the man who has achieved so wonderful adventures that you have done with the Apollos, the moon shots, may not be able to organize societies and to try to make every people live in peace and friendship.

My wife and I should be very happy if our visit, an incident in the very complicated and sometimes difficult life of people in Washington, contributes in any way to raise that faith and the moral values in the spirit of men and the dignity of men, and the possibility--may I say more--in the obligation of people to obtain a system of life in which permanent values be observed.

I am very happy to be here. Mr. President, I apologize for my English and my words. And please, I want to make a toast and invite you to rise again.

To the United States, to your wonderful people, to the future of this great Nation, to President Nixon, to his gentle wife, to all of you and to perpetual and fruitful friendship between the United States and Venezuela and all Latin American countries.

Thank you.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and President Caldera of Venezuela Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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