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Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Andreotti of Italy at a Dinner Honoring the Prime Minister

July 26, 1977

THE PRESIDENT. Good evening, everybody.

The first thing I'd like to say is that we're very proud to have you here with us tonight. It's been a delightful day for me, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the reunion with my good friend, Prime Minister Andreotti.

As you may or may not know, he doesn't speak English and I don't speak Italian. So we carry on a conversation in Spanish. [Laughter]

I got through with my first conversation with him today, and I discovered afterwards that we had promised to build 18 water projects in Italy. [Laughter] And he had promised to send the Communists over to help me run the Government. [Laughter] So we decided from then on to use an interpreter. [Laughter] We've made out much better since then.

There have been a lot of things that have made the Italian-Americans famous in our country. One of them was my acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention. [Laughter]

Afterwards, I went to an Italian-American appreciation banquet. And as a normal outgrowth of the fact that Rome was a republic 2,000 years ago and the fact that within the consciousness of Italians and their descendants there has been a strong commitment to orderly government, a deep sense of justice, truth, integrity, and a commitment to public service, I was there when the two most famous men in our Nation were recognized, along with some others, Judge John Sirica and Peter Rodino.

And I think it's accurate to say that it was not a coincidence that these Americans of Italian descent were the ones who--in a time of great challenge to our very system of government based on human freedom and the democratic process-that they stood tall and strong and reinspired our people to believe in our own system of government. And I particularly want to thank Peter Rodino, who's here, and my good friend, John Sirica, for that wonderful accomplishment.

That particular evening was during the general election contest. I had a chance to say a few words. I was very happy to introduce to several thousand Italian-Americans my runningmate, Fritz "Mondalli." [Laughter]

I think because of that and other reasons, we made out very well with Italian-Americans. But when we began to prepare the guest list for this evening, Rosalynn and I and all those who helped to make arrangements for this banquet were impressed at the overwhelming number of Italian-Americans who have been an inspiration to us all, both those who are famous and those who are not very famous, and a re-awareness of the strong ties of heritage and kinship and friendship that has bound our countries together.

I'm very new at this job, as you know. But I've had a chance to learn from the experienced leaders who have, through long years of public service, learned themselves about the proper interrelationships between nations and the unchanging trends of history and the challenge that befalls democratic governments and how successfully to meet those challenges.

I was listening a few minutes ago to a very famous economist who is sitting at our table, Dr. Modigliani. And he has recently published an article in one of the famous Italian newspapers, pointing out that the government of Prime Minister Andreotti is, in his opinion, the first one in 20 years who's really moving that country and inspiring the people and correcting defects and carving out for the future a bright outlook on the prospects of the Italian people for maintaining their strength, economically and politically, and preserving their tremendous influence that's beneficial to the rest of the free world.

I've learned a lot from Prime Minister Andreotti, who's become a very close personal friend of mine. He's served, as I said in my welcoming remarks today, in many parts of government. I can't recall them all, but a little more than 30 years ago he began his service as Under Secretary of State. He served as Secretary of Finance and Treasury and Defense and Commerce and has managed the budget of Italy. And has been a solid and a very inspired leader for the people of Italy.

Several years ago, there was a great concern throughout the free world that the economic circumstances in Italy might deteriorate rapidly and be a stumbling block to further progress. But under the leadership of Prime Minister Andreotti, that crisis has been weathered. And now I think it's accurate to say, and almost everyone would agree, that the progress that has been made in that nation in recent months is inspirational indeed.

We value the friendship of leaders like him and the wisdom that he adds to international councils and, also, a sense of sharing of the responsibilities for leadership with the government and the people of Italy.

There is a great deal of common purpose, a common challenge, common problems, and a determination to solve them. I benefit personally from this friendship and this closeness. And I know that it is with a sense of reassurance that we recognize again the strength of the interrelationship between the people of Italy and the people of the United States of America.

As President of our people, representing about 215 million free men and women, I would like to propose a toast to the brave and courageous and fine friends of ours in Italy and to their inspired leader, Prime Minister Andreotti.

THE PRIME MINISTER. Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I am indeed very glad to be again in the United States for my third official visit as President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic.

Your invitation, Mr. President, and tonight's wonderful reception in this historical house, which is deeply linked with so many memories of American greatness, had, first of all, evidence of the old, warm, and enduring friendship between our two countries.

I would like to thank particularly on this occasion our gracious hostess, Mrs. Carter, whose presence, whose courtesy and, also, intelligence are so evident in so many activities of your great Nation.

Somebody suggested that I might address, in Latin, my host. [Laughter] By the way, I suppose that my Latin may be more understandable to many of you than my English. [Laughter]

But I would ask, Mr. President, your permission to use my language, which happens to be that, also, of so many Americans of Italian descent.

[At this point, the Prime Minister continued in Italian, and the translation follows:]

Mr. President, I wish to renew my warmest thanks for the welcome given to me and to Minister Forlani, for the cordiality shown to us, and for the appreciation toward our government at a time which is difficult but in which the Italian people are once again proving their great will for recovery and progress.

He who has the responsibility for political leadership always finds it hard to tackle programs of social reform. When the economic trends are favorable, one fears that an innovation may cause pauses and retrogressions. When, on the other hand, things do not go well, the requirements for first aid monopolize resources and energies.

Now, our Republican Constitution of 1948 provides for a general social progress and for the narrowing of excessive income gaps. It is not morally right that the contrast continues to exist between the few that possess very much and the many who have, if at all, the bare necessities.

In this period and within this framework, we are leading an energetic fiscal policy. This has proved so effective that in 24 months the taxation revenue has doubled, although the fiscal pressure on the less privileged has been appreciably lessened.

At the same time, we have had a prodigious expansion in the number of students up to the level of universities, which are open today to the children even of the humblest families.

Another item I would like to add-the proportion of Italians who now own their own homes has reached 50 percent. The road to be covered in the field of social justice is still long. We are conditioned by the grip of unemployment and of inflation. But the results of more than 30 years comfort us in our firm belief in the goodness of the democratic system. We consider freedom to be the fulcrum of any intention and design of our programs.

I am proud to speak these words in the presence of a chosen representation of Italian-Americans, almost all descendants of humble immigrants to whom for a long time our fatherland was not able to ensure bread and work.

On your soil the immigrants gave a strong contribution to the continuous growth of the American nation, sharing without exception joys and adversities.

Allow me today not to talk of those who have emerged socially in many fields. I would like instead to mention the contribution of blood given by the Italian-Americans when the United States has been engaged in war.

There is not a single military cemetery from Normandy to Nettuno in which the names of so many people of Italian origin do not bear witness to this participation in the greatest sacrifice of their new homeland.

When you, Mr. President, were serving in the Navy in Hawaii, you would certainly have paused in meditation in front of the historical memorial to the fallen of Pearl Harbor. Well, even on that stone are engraved significant names, such as those of machinist W. J. Bonfilio, of sailors E. I. Brigniole, E. Puzzio, M. I. Giovinazzo, F. J. Pidrotti, J. N. Ristivo, and R. D. Valenti, of yeoman M. Crisquolo, of ship fitter F. Riganti. Europe and Italy also owe those boys, twice in this century, their victorious liberation.

And it was the sacrifice of all this youth that inspired enlightened statesmen to give life in 1949 to the Atlantic Treaty, the prime purpose of which has been that of preserving peace. By associating themselves in time to effectively ward off the danger of a third world war, the United States, Canada, and 13 European countries have undertaken an affirmation of solidarity which had no historical precedent and which still remains an essential element of world stability.

We are pleased to say that this view is shared today in Italy by the widest majority of political forces, together with the other qualifying objective of the European Community.

Mr. President, on the occasion of every change here at the White House, we in Europe legitimately ask ourselves, what will be the policy of the United States towards our continent? It seems to us that a man from Georgia, the son, that is, of a State which counts among its cities a Rome and an Athens, must be by vocation more than others close to Europe. [Laughter]

You have given assurances of this many times during your electoral campaign, and you confirmed it without fear of doubt last May at the London summit. And on the same occasion, you also made it clear, without equivocation, that there is no contrast between the repeated raising of the issue of human rights and international policy of detente, to which we are also faithfully and earnestly committed.

I do not think I am far off the mark, because the statesman is first of all a man, if I connect your reaffirmations for human rights not so much to a high political strategy but rather to your youthful experiences as a son of the Deep South--sensitive, with foreseeing clearness to the appeal of civil unity and of the equality of man.

On the road of detente, the meeting in Belgrade offers us a proving ground to show that there is a convergence of ideas between America and Europe. And we must embark on it, both firmly and gradually, confident in the value of the principles in which we believe.

Mr. President, in the spirit of friendship and solidarity between our two countries and in view of the ever closer and more concrete cooperation which we intend to implement between our two Governments, I raise my glass in a toast to your personal happiness and to that of your family, to the prosperity of our two peoples, and to the well-being of all those present.

Note: The President spoke at 9:25 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Andreotti of Italy at a Dinner Honoring the Prime Minister Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243456

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