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Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Fanfani of Italy

June 12, 1961

I would like to express on behalf of us all our great pleasure in having the Prime Minister here today.

I had the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister when he came to the two conventions of our political parties of 1956. I think maybe he and Congressman Anfuso may have come together but in spite of having visited the Democratic Convention of 1956, he politically has been able to maintain--unlearn all the lessons he learned there--maintain his political power and influence and prestige in his own country.

I want to say that we are very appreciative to the Prime Minister for coming here. Our countries are closely allied and associated. His country occupies, as history has shown us for the last two thousand years, a most important strategic position. And although the geography of the world may be somewhat different than it was when his country began its great rise, nevertheless the basic fact of the commanding position of Italy in the Mediterranean, the southern part of Europe, is an influence which stretches all the way across the Mediterranean into Africa, the Middle East. All these things have helped make his country play a paramount role in the days, certainly of all of our years, and particularly since the end of the Second War. So that I think at a time when the Western Alliance and the Atlantic Alliance is faced with most serious and critical problems of decisions, I think that it's very appropriate that we should have the advice and counsel of the Prime Minister and also be able better to coordinate the two policies of our two countries.

May I say also, Prime Minister, that those who become fainthearted about our problems today I think might consider the extraordinary record of your own country: the tremendous increase in its economic growth, which has been at a higher percentage than ours has; the real, the successful, effort which your country has made to meet its internal economic problem, which was serious after the war; the fact that it's played an increasing important role in NATO. It has more than met its commitments to NATO for an increase in its forces each year. It has been willing to accept and participate greatly in the strengthening of the European community, as one of the six, and also in the Atlantic Community and also NATO, and its influence, particularly in areas such as Latin America, which go far beyond its geography. I think all these things make us particularly glad to have you here. And for those Americans who have failed to realize the extraordinary rise of Italian strength and vigor, I would remind them of a newspaper story which appeared around February or March this year which said Italy had assisted the United States to get some of its gold back and was helping the United States economically now. So we are very appreciative.

So I hope that you all will join with me in expressing our great pleasure at having at our side as a country, the people of Italy, and having the advantage of having the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, the Ambassador, members of the Government, here at a time when we commonly face, as we have so many times in the past, serious problems and decisions. So I hope you will join in drinking to the President of the Republic of Italy.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a luncheon at the White House. The Prime Minister responded as follows:

Mr. President:

Allow me at this time to express my profound gratitude, first for your kind invitation that you extended to me to come to your country and indeed for the warm welcome that you have bestowed upon me, upon Foreign Minister Segni and members of our party.

You have also seen fit to remember the occasion on which we met at the convention in Chicago in 1956.

In fact it was right after the conversation I had with you, Mr. President, Ambassador Stevenson called me apart. He asked me on that occasion in his capacity as Secretary of the Democratic Party how the propaganda machinery was set up in a political party in Italy.

I explained to him how this was done and he thereafter called one of his colleagues over to him and said, "See how they do it." Then he turned to me and said, "For the time being we will keep doing things as we have. But if we lose this election we will come to Italy and settle down."

You expressed the hope that I unlearned what I had picked up at the convention after my return to Italy, but the fact is that there are many things that I have indeed learned.

And then you will remember how in our convention that transpired in October 1956 we introduced a few little grassroots in administrative and organizational twists that we had picked up in Chicago and San Francisco.

Then in the summer of 1958 Mr. Stevenson came to my summer home to pay me a visit. At that time we set him up with a little cart being pulled by a Sardinian donkey. Mr. Stevenson asked me if I thought it would be good for the next election and I said I thought it would. "But suppose Eisenhower comes here, what are you going to put him on?" I said I would put him on an elephant!

All joking aside, Mr. President, as you see I did learn some very useful things from what I observed at your political conventions and from my observations of the democratic way of life of your people.

You can imagine how overjoyed I am at after having once met you in Chicago I could now--I have been able to come here now today and meet you and find you at the head of this great Nation and to be able to express to you how glad we are to see you at the head of this Nation--strong, democratic, and free.

And I should also like to bring to mind with great pleasure the common fight which we have maintained together in favor of peace and freedom. The United States--the people of the United States and the people of Italy march forward together in this fight, especially since the Second World War.

And I am glad that you recalled that on the basis of this inspiration the people of Italy since that time has permitted its government beginning with the policies of de Gasperi to operate in such a way that the people on the basis of his operations were able to pursue in peace all blessings of liberty.

This year on the 16th of March for the first time ever the United States and the President of the United States have celebrated the first centennial of Italian unity. We should like to express our profoundest appreciation for this testimony--this testimony to the world, to the closeness which binds our two people together.

We are also very gratified to be able to say now that in the last 15 years of our history as out of 100, Italy has been able to realize more progress than it ever did during all these preceding 85 years.

And the other day a public statement by the President of the Bank of Italy revealed that income in Italy over the last 100 years has increased threefold. Half of this increase has been accomplished during the last 10 years.

We hope that this will serve as eloquent testimony as to what can be accomplished under democracy and liberty.

Now it is our duty to disseminate, to distribute this prosperity throughout the various regions and to all the families of our people. And especially we must use this prosperity and this opportunity to disseminate the blessings of liberty, especially in the field of education. And in this way we are confident that we will be able to increase the prospect of concrete freedom for each of our citizens who will have every reason on this basis to live and progress in peace.

The progress which we have been able to achieve of course increases our responsibility on the international scene. Our people, by reason of its tradition, its religious principles, and its civic convictions feel the duty to extend these blessings to all the people of the earth. We have witnessed the great generosity of the American Government during the last several years. And you have seen fit to recall the various evidences of our progress. But we have said nothing about this. We did not mention this because we thought it was more our duty to simply reciprocate the feeling--the spirit of friendship and fraternity; with which you dealt with us.

We are glad to have had the opportunity to come here to this capitol and say to the American people that the Italian people fully restored to their national unity and integrity have every intention of contributing everything it can to great effort to extending the blessings of liberty throughout the world.

Because of course if peace is for all people and freedom is not to be the blessing of the few and prosperity is to be widespread, then there will be a decreasing number of attempts against freedom and peace.

We should like to express our great pride in what the United States has done in this respect and we should like to modestly request that you allow us to associate ourselves in this pride with you for what little we have done in this direction.

But we must consider what is still to be done in order to maintain freedom and to extend liberty to all men. And we must reaffirm with great conviction the propositions which we defend and the methods--the instruments which have been at our command to maintain peace and spread liberty and defend them against all threats from the outside. And we must consider these things and consider ways of using them, polishing them and adapting them to new ways so that we can ever increase these benefits to all mankind.

We should like to congratulate you, Mr. President, in your great efforts and your actions which have been so effective and long-seeing and to assure you that Italy and the alliance which joins us, which brings us together and in our common values, we will do everything along with you to consolidate progress in freedom towards the permanence of peace.

With this, Mr. President, I should like to drink to your health, to the success of your actions, and to the lasting prosperity and well-being of the people of the United States.

John F. Kennedy, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Fanfani of Italy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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