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Toasts of the President and President Paz at a Luncheon at the Bolivian Embassy

October 23, 1963

Mr. President:

I know I speak on behalf of all of our fellow Americans here today in expressing our appreciation to you for what you have said about us and what you have said about some of our fellow Americans and our country. This is, in fact, I think the largest delegation of Congressmen and Senators that I have seen at any state function such as this, and I think it is indicative of our regard for you and our admiration for what you have been attempting to do for a decade for your country, and our interest in close relations with Bolivia and our continuing interest in our relations with all of our sister Republics in this hemisphere.

The United States, faced with two tremendous potential military challenges in the years immediately after the war, concentrated a good deal of its resources and efforts in the defense of Europe and Asia. I think that while that defense is, of course, not assured, nevertheless, I do think that the American people have come to realize, perhaps belatedly, that here in this hemisphere a great struggle is being waged in which we must play a major role. That is a struggle for a better life by really almost the most vital people in the world.

The highest birth rate in the world is in Central America, in Costa Rica. In the journeys I have taken, I am sure this impression is shared by all who have traveled through Central and Latin America. I know of no people who are more desirous of living in freedom, more desirous of educating their children. The chances are there and I think it is the responsibility of the governments involved to make the most of those chances. Time may not always be our friend. I think that this decade must mark a major effort by the United States, in association with the other countries of this hemisphere, in attacking the problems of poverty, misery and disease, and lack of opportunity.

I think if all of the countries which have signed the Punta del Este Charter meet their responsibilities, we have a chance to win the most significant fight for democracy by demonstrating that under a system of freedom we can provide a system of economic advancement. That is the object of the Charter of Punta del Este to which we have committed ourselves; and Bolivia, of course, has been a pioneer, long before the Charter, under the leadership of our distinguished guest.

So I regard this trip as a most important one because the President symbolizes what we stand for in this hemisphere. And what he is attempting to do in his own country is what we have attempted to do for many years in our own country and what we would like to see done in other parts of our hemisphere.

At a time when there are some shadows on the horizon in this hemisphere, when we are concerned about the trend of events in some countries, I think it is very appropriate and heartening to welcome to the United States a great fighter for his country's welfare, a revolutionary who has made his revolution progressive and democratic, and who has taken a country which has had a most difficult history, a complicated history, as he said, where geography has been hard, and is making it--with a good deal of unfinished business before him as well as before us--a progressive and democratic society which can serve as an example to others.

So, Mr. President, you are very welcome here. I think the presence, as I said, of the Members of Congress, representatives of labor, the press, and others, is indicative of the very high regard in which you are held, of our strong desire to have a close association with you and your country. I would ask all of you to join me in a toast to the very good health of the people of Bolivia, to the well-being of the Government, most especially in honor of our distinguished guest, the President.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a luncheon given in his honor at 1 p.m. President Paz, speaking before him, began by welcoming the President to the Embassy and expressing hope that his visit there would be followed by one to Bolivia itself.

Bolivians, he continued, admire President Kennedy because of his recognition of the importance of securing equal rights and opportunities for all peoples of the world, and because of his sustained efforts for peace. President Paz voiced his appreciation for the hospitality accorded him on his visit and for the good will and understanding shown him by the President and his colleagues, by officials of the Inter-American Development Bank, and by others whom he had met. Such understanding is gratifying, he added, when shown towards Bolivia, a country whose actions at times have been subject to distortions and misunderstandings abroad; it is all the more necessary in an interdependent world in which "it is very difficult for any one country to build a China Wall."

Concluding with a renewed expression of gratitude for U.S. assistance to Bolivia, President Paz paid particular tribute to the achievements of the Peace Corps. The unpretentious attitude and selfless service of the volunteers, he said, had won them the affection of the Bolivian people whose life they share.

John F. Kennedy, Toasts of the President and President Paz at a Luncheon at the Bolivian Embassy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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