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Toasts of the President and President Echeverria of Mexico

June 15, 1972

Mr. President, Senora Echeverria, our very distinguished guests:

As all of you know, Mrs. Nixon and I during this year, along with the Secretary of State, have traveled a great deal. We traveled halfway around the world to Peking. And then we traveled almost halfway around the world the other way to Moscow.

And on this occasion in this house, we want all of you, our guests tonight, to know that it is very good to be home in the United States and to welcome our very good and dear friends from our great neighbor to the south, the President of Mexico and his wife.

I would like to tell a little story as to how we feel about the President and his wife. This is not their first visit to this house. When he was President-elect, we had the honor of receiving them in the family dining room upstairs. And that was appropriate, because whenever the President of Mexico visits the President of the United States, we feel that they are part of our family. We are all part of the American family in this hemisphere.

But the story that I want to tell you relates to a very unfortunate experience. Just before I went to Moscow, when we entertained in this room the parliamentarians from Mexico, on that occasion the distinguished Ambassador to the United States from Mexico was held up at the gate. He was not a parliamentarian. He was not a Senator. He had no invitation.

When he told me why he was delayed, I said to him, "The Ambassador from Mexico is always welcome in this house. He needs no invitation."

And I say to the President of Mexico, to his wife and all of our friends from Mexico, you need no invitation. I will say to you, "Esta usted en su casa."

And now returning to a more serious vein, I noted this morning in my remarks welcoming the President that we expected to discuss many things, bilateral problems, hemispheric problems, and international problems. We have had very good talks and we will continue them tomorrow.

But as I talked to the President of Mexico, I thought of what kind of man he was and what I could say about him in presenting him to our guests tonight. And I thought of another man whom it would be appropriate to mention, particularly in this room, as I stand below the only portrait that hangs in this room, the portrait of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln was the great American President of the 19th century, and a contemporary of Lincoln was Benito Juarez. They did not know each other, but they respected each other. And each in his way kept his country together at a time that it would otherwise have been torn apart. Both became revered national heroes. And we are receiving the President of Mexico on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the death of Benito Juarez, whose statue is just a few blocks from here in Washington, D.C.

He said many interesting and very profound things during his life. But one very simple thing he said remains in my memory. He said, "Peace is respect for the rights of others."

As I talked to the President of Mexico today, 100 years after the death of Juarez, I heard that theme expressed: Peace is respect by great nations for the rights of smaller nations. Peace is respect of the strong for the weak. Peace is respect of the rich for the poor.

Never have I heard a more eloquent expression on the part of a world statesman for the smaller nations, for the weaker nations, and the proud nations who are moving upward toward progress and prosperity, hopefully in a world of peace.

It has been my privilege in 25 years in government service, and as a private citizen, to meet and know personally over 100 heads of state and heads of government in the world. And I can say to my friends here from America, the United States of America, and to our good friends and guests from Mexico, that in your President you have a man who, because of his intelligence, his enormous energy, his humanity, and his understanding of the problems not only of his own country, but of the world, is in the first rank of the statesmen of the world that I have met in this last quarter of a century.

That would be a high compliment to any man, but in proposing my toast tonight, I propose an even higher compliment. One hundred years after the death of Benito Juarez, we are fortunate to have in the great nation to the south of us, a President who is in the great tradition of Juarez, who expounds eloquently the philosophy of Juarez, a man who has been and will be one of the great leaders not only of his own country but of this whole hemisphere.

And so to the man who proudly and justifiably today wears the mantle of Juarez, President Echeverria of Mexico, I propose that we raise our glasses.

Note: President Nixon spoke at 10:01 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. He spoke without referring to notes.

See also Items 200 and 203.

President Echeverria spoke in Spanish. His remarks were translated by an interpreter as follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon:

We Mexicans cannot help but remember with great pleasure the fact that a few years ago--a little over 30 years ago--a young California lawyer who had just married a delicate and attractive schoolteacher, picked our country for his honeymoon. They took a long journey, made careful observations throughout their journey, without knowing that destiny would enable him some day to apply those observations more directly and more carefully in this new relationship of ours that we are working at perfecting.

We appreciate even more, however, the fact that 25 years after that wedding trip, the Nixons went back, with their children this time, went back over the trail of their honeymoon to show the children the various places where they had traveled on that occasion.

And we believe, Mr. President, and Mrs. Nixon, that especially on this second journey when you went back with your daughters that this was a testimony of your affection, of a cordial expression of your sentiments that has nothing at all to do with politics but is just your personal opinion and sentiments towards this country.

Mr. President, you have recalled the figures of Lincoln and Juarez. Both men emerged victorious from a very divisive civil war in their own countries, a war that had rendered deep divisions among their people.

Both of them in practice led their peoples to the victory of the cause of what is right and both of them consolidated the unity of their people.

And what better than to recall them now when the world is trying to emerge from an era of deep divisions, is trying to find a path under law, so that with justice we, as we especially aspire to in the Americas, are trying to solve the problems that affect us.

And so daily, as we seek to find solutions to some of these terribly complex problems, some of them so complex as to seem insoluble, I think it is positive, therefore, to find our inspiration in the best men produced by our history. And it is right then that we should look back upon these heroes of our past who with justice, recognizing how--through their very efforts, their arduous struggles, their daily sacrifices--how they won victory for their countries and served their people through that cause. Their best reward for them was to achieve a victory for the good cause that they espoused.

You had invited us in December of 1970 to a small friendly dining room on the second floor of the White House. On that occasion, Mr. President, you told me that after I took office that you would invite me and my wife to come to Washington on a full state visit, which is what we are in the process of engaging ourselves in now, and that on this occasion we would talk about a number of subjects that you have just mentioned which then, as President-elect, I was not in a position to discuss.

Some might think that we have come to speak on behalf of Mexico with frankness, perhaps with excessive frankness, about some of our common problems. But your various journeys, Mr. President, to these two great world powers of recent months have shown that we are living new days indeed, and days in which problems must be faced, and when we say face problems it means show our face and face up to the problems that do exist.

And so I ask--and I will answer in the affirmative before I even finish the question-is this a new style that is being introduced into international political life? Is this a new diplomatic style that we are using that is coming from the Americas that will have effects on the entire world? And the answer, as I said, is in the affirmative.

Because this is a process of renewal, this new style, this new approach that we are showing in this hemisphere that will affect the entire world. This is a very special style, a very effective style because it has a very great sense of realism.

So we are in a sense rediscovering contemporary realism and facing up to our problems close up and I think this will permit us to overcome the crisis of our days.

Mr. President, in thinking of your temperament as a fighter, and your wall to fight and to win, we really could not find a full explanation of these virtues without looking at the moral strength that you derive from this delightful lady who is your wife.

And so, ladies and gentlemen--and this is not a mere formula of courtesy and affection-but please, if you would, rise and join me in a toast to the President and to this distinguished lady, with all of her high virtues, who has been a great companion to this great fighter, and as Mexicans we invite you to reiterate this expression of our deep affection for President and Mrs. Nixon and our great appreciation for their warm hospitality.

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

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