Gerald R. Ford photo

Toasts of the President and President Giovanni Leone of Italy at a State Luncheon in Rome.

June 03, 1975

Mr. President and Mrs. Leone, Mr. Prime Minister, and Excellencies:

I am delighted to be in the Eternal City of Rome, the justly celebrated capital of Italy.

It is a pleasure and an honor to be with you today in this hospitable and historic palace. I am mindful of the symbolism of this visit underlining as it does the traditional friendship and ties between our two countries.

We in America have just begun the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the United States' struggle for independence. The very name "America" derives from an Italian navigator. Among the Italian contributors to the early history of the American Republic are William Paca, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Fillipo Mazzei, a close friend and collaborator of Thomas Jefferson.

Since the very beginning of our country, the human ties between Italy and the United States have enriched America's life, America's culture, and have served to establish the basis for the deep and very warm friendship that exists today.

For a quarter of a century as a Member of the United States Congress, I served in our national Capitol building. As a result, I was mindful of the contributions of artists and skilled workers from Italy to design, to construct, and decorate our national Capitol.

The paintings, the carvings, and the statues of Italian conception and artistry have become enshrined at the very heart of our Government as a part of America's history and America's heritage. This symbolizes only one aspect of our great debt to Italy.

Our hearts are lifted when we hear America's many bands playing stirring airs, and we do recall that President Thomas Jefferson, who loved the music of Italy, invited Italian musicians to create our first military band.

In considering those who have made distinguished contributions to the relations between our countries, I would like to take this occasion to express my appreciation for the outstanding service of your Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Ortona. He has gained the respect and the appreciation of not only American Presidents and Secretaries of State but also of the American people.

Americans in Italy never feel that they are among strangers. We always have the feeling that we are with close friends.

In this relationship, our two countries share much in common. Our cultural, economic, fraternal, commercial, and social ties affirm our continued cooperation and close association. Our Governments are committed to a world of freedom and peace and to overcoming tensions which threaten the peace. We are committed to the strength of an alliance that has kept more than a quarter century of peace on the Continent and which is indispensable to our concerted efforts to reduce tensions and to increase cooperation. Of first importance, we share a firm dedication to democratic government and the principles of freedom and liberty. We in America value the role of Italy in the world, your contributions to the Atlantic Alliance, and your efforts toward a stronger and more cohesive Europe working with the United States.

These bonds and shared goals, Mr. President, were set forth in the joint statement issued on the occasion of your visit to the United States last year. They have been reaffirmed in our discussions today.

At the NATO summit conference in Brussels last week, the member nations of the Atlantic Alliance renewed their commitment to the Atlantic Alliance and to the principles of friendship and cooperation and the common defenses, which are its foundation.

I must emphasize how much the United States values Italy's partnership and Italy's contributions to the Alliance. We greatly admire the leaders and the people of Italy in carrying through difficult economic measures which are crucial in fighting today's economic difficulties. We are keenly aware of Italy's strengths. We are proud of our alliance with you and take confidence in the knowledge that this relationship is welcomed by you.

Mr. President, the warmth of the welcome given me today by you, by your gracious and charming wife, and by the people of Rome on behalf of all of the Italian people has been in the highest tradition of Italian hospitality. For me, this delightful luncheon with so many friends symbolizes the depth of friendship between our two countries.

In this spirit, I lift my glass in toast to the United States and to Italy, to our continuing, growing friendship in the years ahead, to President Leone, to Prime Minister Moro, and to the great Italian people.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 3 p.m. in the Salone Delle Feste at the Palazzo Quirinale in response to a toast by President Leone, who hosted the luncheon.

President Leone spoke in Italian. His remarks were translated by an interpreter as follows:

Mr. President:

It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity of again expressing to you, to Mrs. Ford, to the Secretary of State, Dr. Kissinger, as well as to the other eminent members of your party, the most cordial greetings of the Italian people, the Government, and myself, and to confirm to you my great and sincere satisfaction at having you as so welcome a guest in our country.

I should like to say first of all, how greatly we appreciate the fact that you have wanted to include this visit to Italy in the first trip that you are making to Europe, thereby giving us the opportunity of resuming the fruitful dialog so happily begun on the occasion of my visit to the United States in September of last year, a visit of which I harbor the most happy memories and whose positive results were expressed in the Joint Declaration of Washington. To this document we attach the value of a substantial step forward in Italo-American collaboration. And a similar importance attaches to the two meetings that we have had here in Rome with the Secretary of State.

During this morning's talks, we noted with great interest your impressions regarding the results of your intensive diplomatic activity of these last few days. These talks have brought to the attention of our Government and public opinion the significance and the importance of this first mission that you are undertaking to Europe in order to stress the solidarity between the United States and her European allies with a view to ever more promising developments of the process of detente among all nations and the consolidation of the cause of peace. We particularly appreciate the efforts you are making to find a peaceful and lasting solution of the Middle East crisis, a matter, as you well know, to which Italy is particularly sensitive.

The objective of peace that the United States pursues offers new perspectives, thanks to the recent meetings of Salzburg and to the further diplomatic action that the United States intends to carry on. As always, Italy gives its full support to these efforts with the greatest commitment.

Italy continues to consider decisive the role that our friend, the American nation, can play in ensuring for the international community an orderly and peaceful future based on the respect of the principles of freedom, democracy, and progress that constitute the common heritage of our civilizations, the firmest of foundations for our understanding and our alliance. For our part, we should like to assure you that we shall make every effort to collaborate-in the spirit of friendship and cooperation that binds us to the United States and to our European allies-in creating, maintaining, and consolidating everywhere a climate of confidence and peace and in promoting a harmonious economic development to ensure the balanced progress of all peoples and nations. The grave problems of our times call for a full understanding and the active collaboration of all countries, the industrialized ones as well as the developing ones. Italy will make its convinced contribution to the farsighted action that the United States is undertaking to this end.

We have welcomed with profound satisfaction the accent that you placed at the recent Brussels meeting of the Atlantic Alliance on the fundamental value of the relations between America and Europe for the purpose of strengthening security and ensuring a more even development of the two sides of the Atlantic.

Italy, considering the Atlantic Alliance as an irreplaceable instrument of equilibrium and peace, has always held that a more concrete and effective European dimension would also give new vigor to the Alliance itself.

As you know, we in Italy feel a profound European vocation. This vocation is reinforced by our realization that a strong and united Europe will be an essential element in an increasingly close collaboration with the United States and the West in general for the solution of the great problems of peace, stability, and harmonious progress of the whole world that characterize our times.

Our meeting of this morning will give new impetus to the already fertile collaboration that has been instituted between the United States and Italy with a view to attaining the solutions that we all look forward to in a framework of continued and, indeed, strengthened solidarity among the peoples of the West. I am sure that a similar result will be obtained by the discussions that you and the Secretary of State will have this afternoon with our Prime Minister.

Mr. President, America is about to celebrate the second centenary of the Declaration of Independence, a document that embodies ideals and aspirations that originated, among others, also in my own country. In this connection, I need only recall that the name of an Italian figures among the signatories of the Declaration and that Benjamin Franklin had frequent contacts with the more enlightened thinkers in Italy. And Italy, therefore, feels that it wants to participate wholeheartedly in this celebration.

In this spirit, then, I raise my glass to the good health and well-being of yourself, Mr. President, and Mrs. Ford, to the success of your lofty task at the head of the American nation, and to the live and deep-reaching friendship that binds Italy to the United States.

Following the luncheon, the President met with Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro at the Villa Madama.

Gerald R. Ford, Toasts of the President and President Giovanni Leone of Italy at a State Luncheon in Rome. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/256890

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