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Toasts of the President and United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar at a Luncheon in New York City

June 17, 1982

The Secretary-General. President Reagan, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honor to welcome you, Mr. President, to the United Nations. Your address this morning was a most heartening statement of the American commitment to the role of disarmament which has brought together the representatives of practically every country in the world.

The United States of course has a particularly important role to play in these endeavors. If past history suggests a skepticism about the potential success of disarmament efforts, the circumstances in which we live today point to the necessity of success. The peril entailed for all in ever more destructive nuclear weapons, the utilization of more and more resources for arms, the fear to which you have recently alluded, Mr. President, in which we now exist, all of these compel us to approach the limitation and reduction of arms as something which can and must be achieved.

The negotiations which are underway in Geneva between the United States and the Soviet Union on intermediate-range nuclear missiles and those which will begin at the end of this month on the strategic systems are especially welcome as part of this process. We can be more confident about the fate of the world if these talks succeed.

Disarmament and international security are inextricably related. There can be no doubt that equitable and verifiable reduction in nuclear and conventional arms can contribute to the increased confidence of our nations which durable peace requires. But it is equally true that armed conflicts such as those we have witnessed in these days threaten international security and escalate the arms race.

Must we conclude then that the arms race will continue as long as conflicts persist? I think, Mr. President, you provided the answer to this question when you stated recently at Eureka College that peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means. As long as there are nation-states, differences between them are likely to continue. However, the United Nations Charter, in the drafting of which the United States had such a major role, declared that all members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means. The United Nations possesses the machinery to help resolve such disputes if only it is used resolutely and effectively.

I am deeply convinced, Mr. President, that if every one of the current and recent armed conflicts had been resolved by peaceful means available under the charter with our resolved ones, this could ultimately have been in the best interests of all the parties involved. This could also be in the interest of international security as a whole, since we all have witnessed the danger of such conflicts escalating beyond their original confines and involve new combatants in an increasingly threatening spiral.

Mr. President, it was in large part due to the vision of one of your distinguished predecessors, Franklin D. Roosevelt—whose centenary we celebrate this week—that this United Nations was formed. Under his inspired guidance and long before the end of World War II, the United Nations took the lead in planning for a new international organization to preserve the future peace. The historical commitment of the United States of the United Nations is as valid and as necessary today as it was then.

It was foreseen at that time that to be effective in strengthening international security, this organization will require the strong and unified support of, in particularly, the major powers. Indeed, they have a special responsibility for peace and security, which was specifically recognized by according them permanent membership in the Security Council.

I would like to suggest that, notwithstanding the serious differences, differences that exist among these powers, it is in their interest and in the interest of the world as a whole to cooperate in strengthening the capacity of the United Nations to resolve, through peaceful means, present and future conflicts. Only in this way can they ensure that the responsibility they accepted in the founding of this organization are fully met.

Mr. President, the United Nations first took shape in Washington on Dumbarton Oaks 38 years ago. Through all of the ensuing years the active and constructive participation of the United States and the problems of the organization have reflected the original American commitment to the concept of a world organization through which peace, social justice, and economic cooperation could be pursued.

The United States is the largest financial contributor to the United Nations. It extends its hospitality to the United Nations headquarters and numerous United Nations organizations. As humanitarian and peacekeeping needs have arisen, American assistance and American initiative has always been forthcoming.

I wish to take this occasion to express the most sincere appreciation for all of the support which the United Nations has rendered. This continuing cooperation and commitment is indeed necessary in order to achieve the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.

Mr. President, your steadfast, personal commitment to these principles is exemplified by your presence with us today. I know that your deeply held belief in the worth of the charter, the dignity and worth of the human person, is a source of strength and inspiration to us all. Your dedication to the fundamentally human value of respect for the individual and your conviction that the life of opportunity and fulfillment can be assured for all humankind are profoundly encouraging. It is indeed such hope and confidence as you have generated that we need to meet the aspirations of the world's people for peace, freedom, and justice.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I would like you to join me in a toast to His Excellency President Ronald Reagan and to the United States of America. To the President.

The President. Well, Mr. Secretary-General, Mr. President, Your Excellencies, honored guests, it's a privilege for me to be with you today, because it provides an opportunity to express this country's continued commitment to the principles on which the United Nations was founded some 37 years ago.

This body was born out of the brutality and chaos of a terrible war, a war that had engulfed the planet with a ferocity of destruction such as mankind had never known before. My longevity has given me a perspective on the founding of the United Nations that was useful in the preparation of the remarks that I made today—and some attention called to that longevity on occasion-but I do remember the U.N.'s first days and our hopes at that time that this would be a forum for all mankind, replacing armed conflict with debate. We hoped that when necessary, it could do what had to be done to prevent aggression.

And yesterday, Mr. Secretary-General, you presided over a convocation honoring the centenary of a great American leader-Franklin Roosevelt. I recall the inspiration of his declaration with Winston Churchill of the four freedoms at a time when the freedom-loving people of the world were sorely in need of inspiration. In a very real way, this, an institution dedicated to peace, was his dream. I can assure you today, however imperfect the reality may be, Americans still dream that dream.

Much has happened in these last 37 years. Our countrymen can be proud that from the first day, the U.N. has had from the United States the utmost moral, political and—you, yourself, generously remarked-financial support. But I should point out that even in a time of domestic entrenchment, American financial support has not and will not decline.

This institution has not become the panacea for all of mankind's problems as some expected. Nevertheless, it has been and can be a force for great good. While it hasn't solved every problem or prevented every conflict, there have been shining accomplishments. More than a few are alive and live decently because of this institution.

Perhaps now we have a more mature view of the United Nations. While recognizing its limitations, we don't overlook its real potential and the opportunities, opportunities that for the sake of humanity we cannot afford to waste.

We welcome and support, for example, the sincere and personal efforts made by the Secretary-General to prevent, contain, and resolve the conflicts in the South Atlantic, in Lebanon, and in Iran and Iraq. You may be new to your job, Mr. Secretary-General, but your vigor and commitment during this trying time have impressed all those who love peace.

As President of the United States, the preservation of peace is a mandate second only to the preservation of my country's freedom and independence. With the destructive power of today's weapons, keeping the peace is not just a goal; it's a sacred obligation. But maintaining peace requires more than sincerity and idealism—more than optimism and good will. As you know well, peace is a product of hard, strenuous labor by those dedicated to its preservation. It requires realism, not wishful thinking.

For our part, we take the issue of arms control and disarmament—the purpose of this special session—very seriously. The tangible proposals we've made and that I spoke of this morning for nuclear and conventional arms reduction should underline our dedication to making this a safer and a more peaceful world. To this end, we seek to reestablish a balance and an actual reduction of strategic weapons.

An unpleasant reality, but true nonetheless, is the fact that many words must be spoken before progress between nations can be made. So, let us get on with the words. Yet, it's been said that through their deeds, you shall know men. So, let us get on with the deeds of peace as well.

So today, I offer you this toast. Mr. Secretary-General, to you, and to this institution, and to the need for peace.

The Secretary-General. Peace.

Note: The Secretary-General spoke at 1:35 p.m. in the Delegates Dining Room at the United Nations.

Following the luncheon, the President met with President Abdus of Bangladesh.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts of the President and United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar at a Luncheon in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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