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Toasts of the President and President Jose Lopez Portillo of Mexico at the Luncheon Honoring the Mexican President

June 09, 1981

President Reagan. President Lopez Portillo, some years ago when I was Governor of California, I was inspecting areas in our State which had been enormously damaged by one of those natural catastrophes that we sometimes see on the Pacific coast—great mud slides that can sweep away a man's home in a matter of moments.

One of these belonged to an old gentleman from your country, who was standing in the middle of what, before the slide, had been his living room. We were both knee-deep in mud. It must have been heartbreaking for him, because his home had obviously been newly furnished. Now it was a scene of ruin. With quiet dignity and the utmost sincerity, he said, "Governor Reagan, mi casa es su casa"—my house is your house. I was deeply moved, and I realized that I was witness to what was purely and traditionally Hispanic—personal pride and courage in the face of adversity.

Today, Mr. President, the entire nation is happy to have you with us here in the White House. And since this house belongs to all of them, may I say on behalf of my fellow citizens, "Mi casa es su casa."

From the moment of our meeting on the Friendship Bridge at Ciudad Juarez last January, I was certain that we would make our relationship more than symbolic, not only because our peoples expect certain cordiality between their leaders but because the leader of the Mexican people exemplifies so well the proud culture and heritage of his people. When you took that highly symbolic step across the boundary to grasp my hand, I knew that our future relationship would be that of personal friends.

Your concern and good wishes during my period of hospitalization were deeply appreciated. The Vice President told me of your concern for my health and of your most generous offer to travel to Washington for this meeting even though protocol called for me to visit you.

At our first meeting, you gave me a splendid example of your own artistry, drawings of horses etched on glass, drawn by you, that are now proudly displayed behind my desk in the Oval Office. And I value greatly the volumes on beautiful art of your country. But it would be difficult to match the gift that arrived at our ranch shortly before my Inauguration—El Alamain, a magnificent horse, your personal mount. Now, that was more than friendship; you took me into your family.

But I remember, too, that you presented me with a bound volume of a book that you wrote on Quetzalcoatl—almost had trouble there. [Laughter] It has much to say about your people. It also says much about the man who leads them today. I found especially relevant to your land the words of Quetzalcoatl to his newborn son: "You are made with the fibers of joy and sorrow, of laughter and tears. You are at the edge of all the possibilities and soon you will have the strength to choose. You will be the course and the measure of the richness and misery. You will be the eagle and the serpent. With your pain, you will maintain the conscience of the universe, with your laughter, the dignity of Man."

Later in the book, Quetzalcoatl, perplexed by the problems of governing, said something we can both relate to: "Despite its regularity, this world is a confused sphere of arbitrary things." The art of politics is sometimes frustrating, but there are other times of confidence and optimism, and your visit has been such a time.

I listened very carefully to you in our meetings, Mr. President, noting the content and the spirit with which you spoke. Your presence inspires confidence that we can calm any of the tensions that inevitably arise between two such close neighbors.

During your election campaign in 1976, you traveled through all 31 of Mexico's states, spreading new hope. The message you brought to the Mexican people is something that can serve as a cornerstone for our relationship as well. If problems arise between us, we must always remember we are the solution. There is nothing that with mutual respect and honest communication we cannot work out together.

I look forward to our next meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in October. In saluting you today, I thank you for your generosity, but more, I thank you for the continued good will between our two peoples that your visit represents.

And so, I ask all of you to join me in a toast to Jose Lopez Portillo, the President of Mexico.

President Lopez Portillo. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, my friends:

I must confess that I am moved. I must confess that I have spoken in this same place three times before, and I have never done so as moved as I feel today.

It is true that I had always been sincere, but also cautious. I had always spoken frankly, but I have always measured the weight of each one of my words, because the relationship, for some reason or another, had always been a tense one. A relationship between neighbors that are so different are always difficult. It is difficult for the one side and for the other. But I confess for the first time now I have felt totally relaxed.

For the first time a President of the United States has used with me that very generous formula of "my home is your home." And for we who understand the greatness and dignity that there is behind that expression, what I have heard from the President today has deeply moved me—as I can understand very well that he felt deeply moved also when he heard that old man that had no roof over his head and who was offering him his home, because a home is the environment of respect for the intimacy of the human being. And when one gives one's intimacy in friendship, it is that that he is giving.

We understand this to be so, Mr. President, and we thank you for this. But I must also say that it has not only been the external behavior but also the substantive part of our relationship that has always been generous, kind, and affectionate.

If all the powerful people in the world were to truly understand what respect means to the weak people, the world would totally change. It is not only to give, not only to help; the most important thing of all is to respect. He who gives without respect is usually offensive. Very frequently I am reminded, and I remind others, that the first e/vie expression that we learn as children is the one that was said by one our great men and Presidents [Benito Juarez], the counterpart, so to speak, of Abraham Lincoln. He said, "Respect for the rights of others is peace." The first word that we Mexicans learn in our civic behavior is the word "respect." And this is the way, ladies and gentlemen, which we have been treated. We have been treated with respect and with friendship, and these are basic qualities to us.

On that basis, everything can be built. One can coincide, one can dissent; human beings are made in many and various different ways and shapes. And in our plurality, we should learn to coexist and to tolerate one another. Tolerance in itself is respect. And when a human relationship is built on respect, it is indestructible. We have spoken about many things. Fortunately, we have agreed on most of them. We have dissented on some. But with the greatest respect, we have agreed to talk about the matters on which we dissent in order to find appropriate solutions.

Intolerance has not come to cancel out opportunity, and that is very important for a good relationship between countries such as ours. It is important, because it is a representative sample of what is happening in the world—the relationship between the countries that have been able to develop and the developing nations. And in a geographic analogy, we could say that this is an expression of the North-South relationship.

We are the most significant relationship between the North and the South. That is why, Mr. President, I have felt so happy and so grateful that you have accepted our invitation to come to Cancun, because we do not only have concepts in mind, but we have direct experiences and reciprocal experiences. I am very certain that the special characteristics of our relationship, North-South relationship, that is, United States-Mexico, can be taken to generalization and that it will be useful, that it can be useful. And this is what we fervently wish—it can be useful for the rest of mankind.

We want appropriate communication so that political will can be expressed. And political will has been expressed here and now today in the United States as regards Mexico and with reference to Mexico as regards the United States within an environment of good will, peace, respect, and consideration for each other.

I believe, Mr. President, that in Cancun we can be a stimulating example to help and participate in the detente of this world which is so complex and at times so absurd, because if the disasters brought on by nature that create all these things for human beings are absurd in themselves-these disasters that leave old men without a roof over their heads but still with their dignity—nature, in that case, nature that has its own strength and will, cannot be controlled by us. But there is something that leaves man without a roof over his head and which is not nature—and I'm talking about passions, ambition, intolerance, violence—vices all of human will. And it is up to the will of the human being to correct these mistakes. Perhaps we can do nothing against nature, but we can do a great deal with our will if we're talking about good will, and I do believe that good will is possible. And I believe that in Cancun, we shall have the opportunity to say that is possible and to confirm that we're speaking the truth.

I would hope, Mr. President, that we will know how to lay bridges that will make it possible for all men and women in the world to say to each other, "My friends, this is your home." Thank you.

I would like to propose a toast to the health of President Reagan and his beautiful wife, to the friendship of Mexico and the United States. To your health.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 2:06 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. President Lopez Portillo spoke in Spanish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Earlier in the day, the two Presidents and members of their delegations held a breakfast meeting at Camp David. Following their return to the White House, President Reagan, President Lopez Portillo, Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Jorge Castaneda de la Rose, and Richard V. Allen, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, met in the Oval Office. The two Presidents and their delegations then met in the Cabinet Room.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts of the President and President Jose Lopez Portillo of Mexico at the Luncheon Honoring the Mexican President Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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