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Toasts of the President and President-Elect Valencia of Colombia

June 25, 1962


I know that you all join me in expressing a very warm welcome to our distinguished guest, the President-elect, who is passing through his happiest days at this moment, and also to the members of his Government, and to our friend, the Ambassador.

Speaking personally, I will say that we have never received, Mrs. Kennedy and myself representing our country, a warmer welcome and more genuine one than that we received on that Sunday when we visited the capital of Colombia. I mean that quite sincerely. It was the most spontaneous outpouring of friendship for the United States which I have seen, and which I think was extremely helpful not only in giving us a warm feeling of welcome, but also in indicating the happy relations which can exist and must exist between our two countries and the other countries, the other sister Republics of the Western Hemisphere.

Our ties with Colombia are specially close. Colombia was the only country in this hemisphere in the south that sent troops to Korea. They had a most distinguished record. They were given a unit citation. Their casualties were high. Nearly half of those who went were casualties. Those who were taken prisoner had a most extraordinary record of endurance and of standing by their principles. And this is only one of many evidences of determination to maintain the independence and freedom of their country and their people.

We have been very grateful for the friendship of the present government, Lleras Camargo, who occupies a position of distinction here in this country and throughout the free world.

The President-elect is well known to us all. His father was a distinguished poet. He himself has had wide experience and won an overwhelming electoral triumph. He is committed, as are we committed, to the best ideals of the Alliance for Progress. We look forward to working with him in the closest cooperation.

Two of our young men in the Peace Corps died in his country a few weeks ago as evidence of our desire for peaceful cooperation.

So that in a real sense our blood, our interests, our hopes, are commingled.

So, President-elect, you are most welcome here, and we drink to your very good health and success in your administration, to the well-being of the people of Colombia, and to the good health of the President of Colombia.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a luncheon in the family dining room at the White House.

In his response Dr. Valencia expressed his pleasure at the honor of being permitted by his Government "on this occasion to sit side by side with President Kennedy and with the leaders of the American Government." He spoke briefly of his career which he said had been climaxed by his election as President after 33 years of political life, 20 of them in the Senate.

Thanking President Kennedy for his reminder of the efforts of Colombian troops during the Korean conflict, Dr. Valencia stated that they had gone to Korea "in defense of the principles of law and freedom that were being threatened there, and to cast our fate in this great battle, side by side with the United States."

"I have the honor of telling President Kennedy here and now," he continued, "that on any occasion when the United States might have to go somewhere in the world to defend the cause of law and freedom that he may count on some very humble but very faithful allies--and that is the country of Colombia."

In conclusion Dr. Valencia spoke briefly concerning President Kennedy's address on the Alliance for Progress, stating that he did not hesitate "to qualify it as the most important document in all Pan American history."

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

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