Richard Nixon photo

Toasts of the President and President Lleras of Colombia

June 12, 1969

Mr. President, Senora Lleras, amigas y amigos:

I suppose that many of you wondered, among the repertoire of the [Strolling] Strings, what that delightful number was, the third one that they played, the second from the end.

Senora Lleras tells me that is the bambuco, which is the great Colombian dance, and in playing that number we were trying, through music, to express a sentiment that I will try to express in my very limited Spanish, a sentiment that everyone in this room feels.

Mr. President, in this room, as you know from having met them in the receiving line, we have young and old; we have Republicans and Democrats; we have businessmen; we have people from government and other areas; but they are alike in one respect, in their affection for your country, the people of your country, and their respect for you and your family who are with you.

And we want you to know that as you come to this house today, that many distinguished visitors have come, but none who receives a warmer reception from us and the best way that I can express that sentiment is not through the way we would say it in English: "Make yourself at home," but the way it is said in Spanish when you arrive in a Spanish home: "Haga usted esta su casa." And to everybody in this room, we say, you are in your own house tonight.

Mr. President, on this occasion I could speak of many things: of the matters that I spoke of when we welcomed you on the White House lawn earlier today, of the role that your country and that you have played in the problems of this hemisphere and, particularly, in terms of the American family and the friendship that we want to develop within that family among the nations that are members of it.

But, I think that our guests tonight, since this is truly a personal dinner in honor of you and of your wife and your family, that they would like for me to speak of you, what you stand for, what you stand for in your country, what you stand for in this continent, in this hemisphere.

First, you have our respect because of your background. We know that at a very early age you entered the field of politics, and you were very successful in that area.

You not only have been successful in the field of politics, but you are quite unusual among politicians. You are a scholar, also.

I do not mean that politicians may not be scholars sometimes, but not always.

We are aware of the fact that you are an economist and a very distinguished economist with a world reputation. And when we hear of that, we are reminded that the study of economics is called, "the dismal science."

I suppose it acquired that description because in the days of Malthus, all economists had a dismal prediction about the future. They predicted then that population would outrun the production of food in the world.

Well, several hundred years have passed, and it has not yet happened, although we still have an enormous problem, both with regard to hunger in the world and in regard to population.

But while you are an economist, I would say that you are an economist in a new tradition, the tradition of pragmatism coupled with idealism and optimism; an economist with a philosophical view of the great problems of your country and the great problems of the world.

And that is one of the reasons why you have been so successful in the political leadership of your country, one of the reasons why your ideas about how we can better develop together with the great natural and human resources of this hemisphere, why your ideas have spread far beyond your country, are respected all over this hemisphere, and are particularly respected here in the United States.

That is one of the reasons why your coming here, as the first official visitor to this country from the Latin American area, I think, is particularly appropriate, apart from the fact that your country has meant so much in terms of its background, insofar as the development of the Latin American institutions are concerned: the development of the Organization of American States, the Act of Bogota, the other matters to which I referred earlier today.

But, speaking quite directly and simply to you, Mr. President, we respect you today as a man who has devoted your life to the service of your people, to the service of your country, and to the service of a cause that is bigger than either of our countries, as big as this whole hemisphere, as big as the whole world itself.

We live in a very troubled time. We all know that, and the problems that you have are quite similar to the problems we have within our own country.

And I was very interested to note that the national motto of Colombia is "Liberty and Order." And I don't know of any man among the world leaders that it has been my privilege to meet who more symbolizes and represents that kind of leadership in the world than our guest of honor tonight.

Liberty and order--we all know that that is the art of politics. We realize that liberty in itself and by itself, if we have it without order, means that we can have, in effect, anarchy. And we know that if we have order without liberty, we have dictatorship.

And it is only that delicate balance between the two which you have maintained in your country and in your leadership which we try to maintain here. It is that liberty and order, liberty with order, that provides the basis for progress.

So we respect you for that kind of leadership. We hope we can learn from you and that we will all profit from this visit that you have paid to us.

So, tonight, I know that all of you around this table will want to join me in raising their glasses to you and in doing so, I am reminded of the crop that is very famous in Colombia, among many others, the crop of coffee, and the advertisement that the Pan American coffee group had a few years ago.

They said: "Coffee is like friendship. It is rich, and it is very strong and very Warm."

And I would like to reverse it by saying tonight that we speak to you in friendship, friendship between the United States and Colombia, friendship that is rich and warm and very strong. And your visit has helped to make it richer and warmer and stronger.

And so to the friendship of our two countries, and to you and your family, I ask all of you to raise your glasses to the President of Colombia.

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

See also Items 237 and 242.

President Carlos Lleras Restrepo responded as follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon, ladies and gentlemen;

I cordially thank you, Mr. President, for your gracious toast. It expresses, once more, the friendliness that has surrounded my wife and daughter, my companions and myself from the very moment of our arrival in this country. It also shows your great interest in Latin America and the particular attention you give to those matters concerning the relations between our two countries. In spite of the ponderous legacy of world conflicts and complex domestic situations that your Government has to confront, you have recognized that this hemisphere should have a high priority in the framework of United States foreign policy. Your invitation to me reflects, I believe, this priority. It also shows your understanding of Colombia's internal and international policies: democratic, progressive, friendly, and independent.

I have struggled, Mr. President, as you have, throughout a lifetime in the political arena, maintaining, thereby, close contact with public affairs. We belong to a generation that has witnessed unprecedented change: some of us as astonished spectators; some as victims; some as voluntary or as unwilling actors. Now, in one of the most contradictory moments of history, we feel bound to examine the world situation with an open mind, trying to see clearly through the clouds that encircle us without any prejudice and also without allowing ourselves to become bewitched followers of new myths or cowardly deserters from principles which are vital to organized society.

It is not easy, indeed, to abandon ideas, attitudes, aspirations that at one time or another were respected and cherished and that have become obsolete in the present erratic world. It is difficult sometimes to sacrifice certain economic interests that fight to survive even when they contradict the more essential needs of larger human groups or international solidarity. It is not easy either to know whether some beliefs and ideals must be considered as unrealistic or unattainable. Are we not often mistaking our own human inconstancy and skepticism for an obsolescence of rightful social concepts? Are we looking carefully enough to discover all the rich realities that are concealed behind some discouraging facts or apparent failures?

These reflections come to me as I review in my mind the history of the inter-American system and of the many efforts directed towards the achievement of a higher degree of cooperation in the hemisphere.

Simon Bolivar's "Letter from Jamaica" initiated the ideological process of union then confined to the Latin American countries. The circular letter addressed also by Bolivar, from Lima in 1824, already contained the main juridical and political elements which we are still trying to apply after nearly a century of inter-American conferences. There, that great man outlined the organization of an assembly that could give us its advice whenever a conflict should arise and arrange for consultation in case of danger, act as an arbiter or judge for the resolution of eventual differences, and provide the proper interpretation of treaties. Colombia and Mexico then sought to associate the United States within the projected system, but without positive results.

The long evolution that followed is well known, and its different aspects are too complex to be summarized tonight. They include such subjects as the relations between the regional organization and the United Nations; the nature of the inter-American system itself; and the cooperation of all the members for the economic, social, and cultural development of the Americas, a cooperation considered essential for the common welfare and prosperity. No agreement, of course, can be so perfect as to cover the infinite number of contingencies that may arise in the internal life or the international links of so many countries, living in great diversity of material and institutional conditions. Still, the Protocol of Buenos Aires, signed in 1967, leaves little room for new declarations of principles concerning relations between the member states. Almost all the matters that need to be agreed upon in general terms have already been discussed, shaped, and stipulated in writing. We know, nevertheless, that neither today, nor in the past, have the great principles of the inter-American system been faithfully observed.

No practical man, therefore, regards today the great questions of the continent simply through Alice's mirror of statutes and declarations. Of course, we do not want to break the mirror. We will always have to base our daily conduct upon written rules, freely arrived at, inspired by equity and human solidarity. But now the most important task seems to be to advance further in the useful and effective implementation of already accepted policies. Let us translate into simple, day to day practices those images that still remain nebulous in the magic glass.

We cannot and should not underestimate the magnitude and significance of what has already been achieved. Neither can we ignore the existence of a system capable, if properly oriented, of gradually fulfilling the better part of our common hopes. The peaceful solution of political and juridical differences, the narrowing of the dangerous gaps that divide nations and societies, are well within the power of the present inter-American organization, provided all the necessary support from the member states is forthcoming. Unfortunately, no one could assert that this support has always been given with an identical degree of conviction and enthusiasm.

I trust the inter-American system. It is the best instrument for the defense and promotion of what has been from the beginning the ideological patrimony of this continent: liberty, equality, and justice. It constitutes the full recognition of human solidarity as the source of international law. The Americas were once called the "land of hope" and I am sure this title can and should be preserved as the symbol and guide of our common conduct.

Still, Mr. President, we must not disregard the great material, psychological, and political obstacles already apparent and those that are emerging with dreadful implications. The future is full of ominous dangers, open to sudden eruptions. It could be disturbed by new and more serious misunderstandings.

You, Mr. President, were already familiar with inter-American affairs when, during the Eisenhower administration, you played such a constructive role in the proceedings that led to the Act of Bogota. This document was the prelude to the Alliance for Progress. It is a well known fact that in the following years you have maintained a lively interest in Latin American problems and in their possible solutions.

During the presidential campaign, you pointed out some grim facts and disappointing figures concerning the pace of development in Latin America. You enunciated also some new means of action and attractive solutions. Reviewing your speeches I find in them an objective recognition of hard realities, coupled with a strong faith in our ability to change them. This is the same spirit with which I view the problems of the hemisphere.

Recently the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Latin American states, described some of these obstacles and enunciated practical rules to facilitate commercial and financial relations in the hemisphere. The document signed in Vina del Mar, which collects the results of many experiences and technical studies, has already been delivered to you.

I am sure you have received it as a positive contribution for the improvement of inter-American relations. Working together on the subjects contemplated therein, the Latin American countries and the United States surely could generate new patterns of trade and remove harmful practices and irritating stipulations. We must avoid as much as possible whatever can disrupt the efforts to develop Latin America economically and socially within an atmosphere of understanding and cordiality. This common effort can influence also, in the right direction, the economic relations with other continents, and put an end to the existing discriminations against Latin America.

I would emphasize the importance of sharing science and technology for the development of the hemisphere, an issue which is also analyzed in the above mentioned document.

A new demonstration of the interest with which you want to study and to conduct a continental policy has been provided by the special mission entrusted to Governor Nelson Rockefeller. I can assure you that, in the case of Colombia, an almost unanimous welcome was extended to your representative. The fruitful exchange of information and opinions covered a wide spectrum, and left behind a warm and friendly memory. I thank you for having given us this opportunity to discuss our common problems with such an enlightened friend.

Colombia is facing its great political, economic, and social challenges with resolution and, I venture to say, with a bold and comprehensive policy. The diagnosis of our specific situation is not difficult and is already well known, as are the factors that can be considered common to most of the developing countries. This is not the occasion to make a new analysis of matters that, furthermore, have been a part of our dialogue. But I should like to assert that Colombia is fulfilling the conditions that the Alliance for Progress requires from her.

If these efforts have been great, so has the cooperation rendered by the United States and by the international organizations. I wish to reaffirm tonight that Colombia fully values and deeply appreciates that support.

It is regrettable that this support, as well as our hard work, has been at times partially frustrated, mainly by the inequities of the world economic mechanism and by unjust patterns of trade. On the other hand the views of the Colombian Government and those of our partners in the Alliance have not always coincided. But, as the head of a nation determined to promote its development, both through its own efforts and joint international action, my message is not one of complaint. I speak the language of resolute realism, a realism inspired by attainable goals but aware of the obstacles that must be overcome.

If ever my perseverance should lag or my confidence in the future fail, I would look back upon your kind words tonight for encouragement and inspiration.

Before raising my glass to propose a toast to the Government and the people of the United States, to our kind host and Mrs. Nixon, and to Colombian-American friendship, let me pray that, in the words of Whitman, democracy may sing in the future throughout the Americas: "Come, I will make the continent indissoluble."

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

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives