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Toasts of the President and the President of Ecuador

June 20, 1951

My friends:

We are exceedingly lucky tonight in having a guest who is the President of one of our great friends in South America, the President of the Republic of Ecuador.

This is a situation which I don't think will happen again in a generation: The President of Ecuador was born in New York City. He was educated in Maryland, and at the University of California, and the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. He speaks much better American English than I do. He tells me that he studied English because English has no grammar and you can say what you please and anybody can understand what you are saying. I agree with him on that.

He comes from a most remarkable country, one in which I have always been interested, and one which I hope to see before I have to pass out of this world of tears. It has a historical background that is most remarkable. You read of the great empire that was in Ecuador, in Peru, and Bolivia, when Pizarro landed on the west coast of South America--a kindly, lovable people, who had a government that was in the interest of the people.

And that is what this President is working for in Ecuador, just the same as we are working for the same thing here in the United States.

Just recently, one of the most remarkable adventures happened since Leif Ericson came to Vinland in the year 900, and it started at Guayaquil, with the complete cooperation of the Government of Ecuador, and landed in the Pacific islands after a 4,000 mile trip in a raft made of balsa logs from Ecuador. I hope that all of you will take time to read that book called "Kon-Tiki." It is almost out of this world--almost unbelievable; but with the help of the Government of the Republic of Ecuador, these six boys built this raft and made the trip.

Now, Ecuador was one of our greatest friends in World War II. The President assures me that Ecuador will continue to be our friend. And we appreciate that most highly, for we want every Republic south of us to be friends to us.

We have neighbors on the north, and we have neighbors on the south. Those neighbors are not afraid of us. They are friendly to us. They know that we have no designs on their sovereignty or on their resources.

I fear very much that that is not the case with Romania or Bulgaria or Hungary or Czechoslovakia or Poland. The free countries of Western Europe do not feel towards their powerful neighbor as our neighbors feel towards us--and that is one of the happiest things in the history of the world.

The President of Ecuador also tells me that he spells protocol with a k, and that he doesn't give a damn about it. That is another thing on which we completely agree.

Mr. President, it certainly is a pleasure to have you here as our guest. I hope you will enjoy your visit. You need no introduction to America. You know it as well as I do. You speak our language better than I do.

My friends, to His Excellency, the President of Ecuador.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a State Dinner held at the Carlton Hotel in Washington. President Galo Plaza's response follows:

Mr. President, Mr. Barkley, ladies and gentlemen:

Indeed, it is a very great honor for the President of a small country to be received by the head of the State that leads the free world today. And it is particularly interesting from my own point of view, because I am not only the representative of my country, but I am also the spokesman for all of Latin America. And maybe I am in a very particular position to be an exceptional spokesman: the fact that I was born in the United States, the fact that I went to school here, and on the other hand, I am Latin American for many, many generations back. On my mother's side were founders of the city of Quito 400 years ago. My father came from a family that was expelled from Colombia because they fought for liberty.

So you can see that, being a Latin--a 100 percent Latin--but on the other hand, having grown up in the United States, having learned to love your way of life, to admire it and want it for my own people, I can maybe explain things, say things, understand things, and be a messenger for my people before you, and on the other hand, explain to my people in Latin America what the United States means, and what the United States wants.

Indeed, maybe it is the first time in history that a great nation, being the leaders of the world, has no intention of conquering land or subjugating people. It has never happened before.

You have only one great ideal, you want for the rest of the world what your people already have.

And this is my mission in Latin America, understanding you as I do, loving the United States as I do, convincing my people of what the United States is, and why we should be with you.

I consider this the prime objective of my visit here, thanks to the very kind invitation of the President of the United States.

On the other hand, he has mentioned certain secrets. I have told him about spelling protocol with a k, and not knowing too much grammar, and therefore considering English just the language that I could learn because you can say things in so many ways, take a shortcut and still make sense, while Spanish is a very grammatical language. I have been allergic to grammar all my life, so English was right down my alley.

On the other hand, there is still another detail that the President did not mention. We haven't been in each other's way because we are both left-handed, we have been eating here with the left hand all the time, which is also very significant.

Mr. President, it is a great honor for me to be here. I want to toast you, sir: to your great country, and to your devoted wife and talented daughter-we miss them here tonight.

Harry S Truman, Toasts of the President and the President of Ecuador Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230193

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