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Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Colombo of Italy

February 18, 1971

Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Foreign Minister, Mr. Ambassador, our distinguished guests:

Mr. Prime Minister, you have been to this country on 10 different occasions, but it is a very great honor for us to welcome you in this house and in this historic room for the first time as Prime Minister of your country.

And we have tried to make you feel at home with the musical selections by our Army string group.

After hearing them play and hearing you compliment them as graciously as you did to me while they were playing, I thought of the War Between the States and the remark made or attributed to a Confederate general when he was asked by a private serving in the infantry for transfer to the band.

The general replied, "No." He said, "Son, what this army needs is shooters, not tooters."

Our Army, our Navy, our Air Force we consider to be part of the peace forces of the world as you do yours, and we are proud that in addition to their military accomplishments they also have other accomplishments which were demonstrated tonight for this very distinguished audience.

A little earlier today I participated in a ceremony honoring President Wilson and the living memorial that is being established in Washington in his memory.

On that occasion, I thought of his visit to Europe immediately after World War I, and particularly of what he described as the warmest receptions he received on that visit, his receptions in Italy.

I recall, too, what he said at Torino when he commented upon the suggestion that had been made by one of the Italian leaders to the effect that after World War I, carrying out President Wilson's philosophy of self-determination, that Italy should have sovereignty over Italians wherever they lived in the world.

And President Wilson responded to that suggestion in Torino somewhat along these lines. He said, "We could never agree to that, because the United States couldn't bear to part with New York."

And he correctly pointed out that New York, at that time, had more Italians than any city in Italy.

But then he went on to say something very profound and as true today as it was then: that the United States could not bear to part with the genius of the Italian spirit which has meant so much to this country in the past and means so much to it today.

Mr. Prime Minister, in this distinguished company we have gathered today you see part of that genius, leaders in the field of business, in the field of the arts, in the field of sports, all the areas which indicate achievement in our country.

I could mention so many. I could mention Enrico Fermi, of Italian background, the man most responsible for the development of the atomic breakthrough. I could mention the great leaders of business, the fact that the largest bank in the world and in the United States was founded by Italians in my home State, in California, and a representative of that family is here tonight.

I could mention the fact that in the field of sports that we, a sports-minded country, have revered many, but none perhaps in our time has reached that pinnacle of admiration that a man of Italian background, Vince Lombardi, reached when he died just a few months ago, not because he was just a great coach, but because he had character, that genius of the Italian spirit which Woodrow Wilson referred to so eloquently 51 years ago.

And, of course, I could refer, Mr. Prime Minister, to the field of politics. Here we can be completely bipartisan. We can speak of Senator Pastore. We can speak in our Cabinet of the Secretary of Transportation, former Governor of Massachusetts John Volpe, who has worked with great devotion for his country and for better relations between all nations.

What I am simply saying is that on this occasion, we thank you for coming to our country, for giving us the opportunity to express America's appreciation to Italy for what you have contributed to us, your country, what your people of Italian background have contributed to America, and also, to say, in response, that we treasure our relationship with your country in the modern day.

Italy and America are friends. We are partners together in the great Atlantic Alliance. And we recognize that in this world today, we have no better friend than Italy.

And speaking personally, I can say to this company that I have no better personal friend, as well as official friend, than Prime Minister Colombo.

After that applause, Mr. Prime Minister, you should come here and run for something.

I simply want to say that we recognize that the Prime Minister has devoted his life to the service of his country, that he now, as we do, has problems to which he applies enormous diligence and dedication and devotion, and for this we admire him. And for that reason, because of our affection for the country that he represents, for the people and the tradition that he represents, and also because of our respect and admiration for him as a person and as a world leader, I know all of you will want to join me in raising your glasses to the Prime Minister of Italy.

The Prime Minister.

Note: The President spoke at 9:58 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. See also Item 62.

Prime Minister Colombo responded in Italian. A translation of his remarks follows:

Mr. President:

The warmth of your words and the cordiality and the friendly welcome which you have extended to me and also some of the things I have read on this little card here in front of me, lead me to be so presumptuous as to think that perhaps you wanted to make this an extra Columbus Day without regard to the date.

I see here salmon from the Columbia River. I think I see something here. Then the filet mignon Potenza. That is where I was born.

THE PRESIDENT. If I may break protocol and interrupt the Prime Minister, I would say--we changed Washington's Birthday--in honor of the Prime Minister, we change Columbus Day to the day of his visit.

THE PRIME MINISTER. I know, Mr. President, that the warm friendship that you express and that of all the American people, and that is manifest to me in the presence of all these other guests here tonight, is not directed towards me alone. I know that it is also meant for Foreign Minister Moro, who is here with me and it is meant for Italy and it is meant for the people of Italy.

You have mentioned a great number of names of outstanding people of the past who have contributed to make this Nation great. You have mentioned and given us a list of distinguished names of people who are here with us tonight, who represent the great link between Italy and the United States and the United States and Italy.

And we are deeply proud, Mr. President, to know and to feel how proud they are to be American citizens and also to see how deeply proud they are of their links with the old country. These are realities, Mr. President, which, of course, point up the depth of the bonds that link our two peoples. And I would say that these bonds are not only of a sentimental order but they are based on common ideals, they are based on the objectives that we share, and they are based on also the closeness that we feel in our responsibilities in sharing the cause of furthering the welfare of the nations.

And you also mentioned the alliance which binds us together, but this alliance, Mr. President, also has very deep-going roots in this common soil and the soil upon which this great family built this Nation, a family which includes so many people of Italian origin.

When you were in Rome, Mr. President, you spoke of your hope for a world that will be put together to enhance the progress of man and not a world that would lead to the destruction of man. And the government that I have the honor to preside is based on the firm conviction, for one thing, that the time available to us to channel the vital human energies and the advances of science and technology toward the betterment of man is growing dangerously short.

And, for this reason, your words, Mr. President, find very lively response, great responsiveness among Italians. And at the same time, Mr. President, the attainment of the vital objectives of peace and justice and the shaping of the present international order upon a basis of stability, which will allow us to look toward the future with the serenity and dignity which man requires for his existence, presupposes the maintenance of the conditions of security that will be suitable and adequate and, therefore, the respect for the equilibrium in whose defense Italy and the United States are actively engaged.

And this is an area of activities that is designed to guarantee the common security, the mutual security whose links are put together in this indispensable and constructive cooperation which even in an area which, for us in Italy, is so vital as the Mediterranean, today stands out in stark significance.

But since security and peace are indivisible, we fervently hope that in every part of the world the conditions for peace will be rebuilt by means--by the route of negotiations.

And Italy in its area of responsibility--and it has always worked---continues to work in Europe in order to establish and to strengthen that pattern of relationships which are necessary for international stability and peace.

Italy is aware that its contribution to this great work will be all the greater to the extent that, with perseverance and with strength, it will be able to move along the road of democracy so that it can make its just contribution to every area of this great enterprise just as it is doing today.

And we know that as we move along this road we will need to have friends, and we know, just as well, Mr. President, that we can rely on the friendship of the United States and we know that we can rely on your friendship, Mr. President.

And it is to this friendship and to your personal health and success, Mr. President, and that of your lovely lady, and to the friendship that exists between Italy and the United States and to the prosperity and the personal happiness and tranquility to all of our honored guests here tonight I wish to lift my cup at this moment in a toast.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Colombo of Italy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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