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Toasts of the President, Prime Minister Marcello Caetano of Portugal, and President Georges Pompidou of France at a Dinner Hosted by the Prime Minister During Meetings in the Azores

December 13, 1971

Mr. Prime Minister, or Mr. President as you may be called, President Pompidou, all of the distinguished guests here this evening:

As the one who has the privilege of offering the last toast of the evening, I first say my respects to those that have preceded me.

As we sit around this table, I am sure that all of us are aware of the fact that perhaps never before in the history of our nations, or the history of the world, have the President of France, the President of the United States, and the Prime Minister of Portugal been so honored at a dinner of this type, and I join President Pompidou in expressing our very warm appreciation to our host for giving us such a generous welcome on Portuguese soil.

President Pompidou and the Prime Minister have both spoken eloquently of the historical backgrounds of our various countries. I come from what is usually described as the New World, but it has just occurred to me how much that New World, the American hemisphere, owes to the Old World, and particularly to the two countries represented at this table from that Old World.

For example, last week I met in Washington the President of the largest country in South America and the Prime Minister of the largest country in North America. The President of Brazil spoke Portuguese, and his great country represents the enormous contribution that was made by the Portuguese settlers in that part of the world.

The Prime Minister of Canada spoke English, but he came from the French part of Canada, and his presence and what he spoke of indicated the enormous contribution that France has made not only to Canada but to the United States and all the New World.

We, of course, in the United States owe so much to France from the time that we became a nation during our Revolution-and speaking as a native of the State of California, I am aware of the fact that my State was first discovered by a Portuguese captain, Cabrillo.

So what the New World is and what it may become is due to the ability, the exploration, the genius that we have inherited from the Old World, and particularly from these nations that are represented here tonight.

Now, as we meet, we find that sometimes we are competitors, we in the New World and those in the Old World, in Europe particularly.

When I arrived at the airport on the Spirit of '76, a Boeing 707, I saw parked in front of me a Concorde which had carried the President of France.1 Our Ambassador to France, Mr. Watson, pointed out that he had come from France at a speed three times as fast as we had come from the United States. I do not speak in envy; I only wish we had made the plane ourselves.

We do live in a time, a fortunate time, when the competition between our great countries is competition which builds progress for all of our people that can be shared in a peaceful way. It is inevitable that there will be problems arising in trade and monetary affairs, in all those areas where advanced societies may compete. But where those problems can be settled peacefully, as they always will between our countries, it can only mean that the whole world benefits from the competition that each gives to others.

A nation or a people that lives as an island unto themselves inevitably will fall behind the rest of the world. There are some voices in our country who speak of turning inward, of turning away from responsibilities in the world. But those are not the voices that will make the future of America. The future of America will be made by a people who will welcome the opportunity to compete with other nations in the world, and to play our role, bear our fair share of the burdens which are involved in world leadership.

I have spoken of what the New World owes to the Old World, and particularly what the Americans owe to Portugal and to France. What can the New World do, and particularly what can America do to repay that debt?

We can be responsible partners in the world community. And in this Christmas season, with these Christmas flowers, and on this island with the Christmas name, Jesus Christ, we can think of a world which we hope will be a peaceful world. France, Portugal, the United States may have some differences in trade, in other areas, but we are totally united in our devotion to peace and in building a world in which all nations may enjoy the blessings of peace.

It is my sincere hope, as the President of France and the President of the United States meet here as guests of the Prime Minister of Portugal, on Portuguese soil, that our meetings will not only contribute to the solution of our temporary economic differences, but that in the great tradition of our two countries, our meetings will contribute to the cause of peace and freedom in the world. There would be no better Christmas present for the world than to have a meeting such as this, between the heads of state and heads of government of two great nations, make progress toward the goal of a more peaceful world.

It is in that spirit, in the true spirit of Christmas, that I offer a toast to the Prime Minister of Portugal, to the President of Portugal, and to the President of the French Republic.

1 On December 14, 1971, prior to his departure from Lajes Field, the Azores, the President inspected the French supersonic aircraft Concorde.

Note: The President spoke at 10:30 p.m. in the Governor's Palace at Angra do Heroismo on Terceira Island, in response to toasts proposed by Prime Minister Caetano and President Pompidou.

In his opening remarks, President Nixon was referring to the fact that Prime Minister Caetano's official title was President of the Council of Ministers of Portugal.

The Prime Minister's remarks follow:

It is to me a singular privilege to welcome to Portuguese territory the heads of state of two friendly nations.

In these days, so full of the worries that reflect the birth pangs of a new world, it is good that, from time to time, the people's leaders should look for a small island. Small islands have about them a mythical charm. They are a haven-not for oblivion, but for meditation. Man needs to know his own limits if his actions are to be realistic and fertile, and an island is, by definition, a piece of land limited on all sides.

This island where we stand is one of the many discovered by those Portuguese who ventured across unknown seas aboard their frail vessels during the 14th and the 15th centuries. These islands were desert. The Portuguese navigators revealed their existence, gave them names, and added to them a human dimension.

They had to possess a lot of courage, those fellow countrymen of mine of five centuries ago. But they needed a good deal of imagination, too, for the places they christened are numberless, be it over the oceans or on the continents, in Africa, in America, in Asia, in Oceania-there where today the presence of Portugal is, in many cases, still alive.

Sometimes the beauty of the new land excited such wonder that the native lyrical talent of the Portuguese soul would flow free, and then the islands received names like Flores, Graciosa, or Formosa.

At other times, his sense of the real would lead the sailor or geographer to pick out one of the physical traits of the place in order to name it. But when no other way remained, Heaven came to the rescue, and, thus, the whole calendar of saints has been scattered around the earth by the devotion of the Portuguese.

Here in this archipelago, called Azores because it was so rich in that particular species of bird, the first island to be discovered was piously dedicated to Saint Mary. The second one was placed under the protection of Saint Michael. And then the discoverers reached the third. Three is a magic number. It had to be celebrated in a special way, and the island was given the name of Jesus Christ.

During its first period of settlement, the island was indeed called Jesus Christ. And more than any other land it is linked through its former name with the culture and civilization which ennobled Europe and marked the growth of the Americas.

On the other hand, placed between Europe and the Americas, the archipelago of the Azores has always been a connecting link between the two continents. Lord of Ilha Terceira in the earlier period of its colonization, a Corte-Real, is found to be connected with the discovery of Newfoundland. In later times, when the size of the population outgrew the scanty space of these islands and was scarce in the vast areas of the Americas, there started in that direction a continuous flow of emigrants which has not yet ceased.

In the United States of America, Azoreans build up the major part of the Portuguese community. Many of them came from this island where, since the last war, an air base has been established that has rendered no small service to the cause of the West and to the security of the Atlantic.

The two peoples cannot but understand each other. The Portuguese are sensitive to the prestige of a nation which, like the American, bases its greatness on the moral strength of its civic life and on the indomitable energy of its children, and they admire the courage with which it fights to preserve the freedom of the Western World. Here, in the Azores, is one of the bulwarks for that struggle. [After delivering the above remarks in English the Prime Minister continued his remarks in French. A translation follows: ]

However, if the President of the United States of America has good motives to find in this place many affinities with his country and to be welcome here with warm friendship, the reasons why the President of the French Republic may feel in friendly country are none the less.

In order to colonize the islands in the 15th century, the Portuguese resorted to other peoples in Europe. And many of the first settlers came from territories which nowadays are French or which enjoyed at the time a very close relationship with France.

At Sao Miguel there is a village called Bretanha. And the language spoken there is still typical compared to the other parts of the island. Many of those who accepted to take part in the adventure of covering with human life these bits of solidified lava were Flemish. The landscape, the habits, the language have kept an indelible imprint left by those men who brought with them their own tradition and the elements of a culture that has so strongly contributed to the wealth of French culture, which was then taking its modern form.

You cannot compare Franco's cultural influence in Portugal to that of any other country. No economic or political influences can be called to justify this fact. The only valid explanation must come from affinities of the mind. The cultured Portuguese admires the French literature, French art, the French way of life and of being. And it is not only admiration that he feels; it is also love. Sadness overcomes him when he sees, so often, how misjudged and badly known his country is, owing to lack of information, but he forgives many a thing out of that tolerance which, in the heart of the Lusitanian, goes hand in hand with friendship.

Luckily, the relations between the two peoples are very cordial, and that cordiality is mirrored in the relations between their governments. Many Portuguese are at present working in France, thus contributing towards the economic prosperity of the country and creating one more link between the two mother countries.

These are indeed good reasons to welcome warmly the presence on Portuguese soil of the President of the French Republic.

The world expects a lot from this meeting between the two of you, Mr. Presidents, and it is justified in doing so. Two gentlemen are talking face to face. Two experienced statesmen are drawing up the balance of a critical situation. The leaders responsible for two great nations are facing courageously, but carefully, the difficulties of the present and the ways of the future.

My wish is that the atmosphere of this place may contribute to an understanding in these talks and to their happy conclusion. Beyond its stormy, wintry aspects, a feature of this island is its human climate of goodness and mutual understanding. It is full of a passionate wish to help others, of an unbounded yearning to better life, a yearning nourished by a stubborn hope and expressed in patient and honest work.

We have, very close to here, the anti-cyclone center. I know nothing about meteorology, but the word does convey to me that, were it not for the currents which brake the whirlwinds built up in the same direction as the rotation of the earth, we would lay open to much more frequent catastrophes. Nature has created the normal movement, but it has also foreseen a remedy to its excesses.

Allow me, Mr. Presidents and gentlemen, to give now a thought to all the men scattered throughout the world whose destinies lie in the hands of those who have been assigned to heavy responsibilities of governing, and to wish, on this island of Jesus Christ, that mankind be still in time to hear the resonances of the Christian message.

I toast to the health of the President of the United States of America and of the President of the French Republic. I toast to the peoples they represent. And I toast to the success of the talks which have started today.

Following Prime Minister Caetano's remarks, President Pompidou spoke in French. A translation follows:

Mr. President:

Thank you for your kind words and for the warm welcome extended to us by the Government of Portugal and the people of Terceira. Well do we know your country's hospitality, but this evening, after a full day's work in the midst of these natural surroundings that civilization has not destroyed but made even more beautiful, I sense particularly strongly all that these islands--the ocean itself mean for a European and a Frenchman. Perhaps it is the invisible presence of three continents which makes us feel the full pressure of the universe we live in.

The Azores, which belong to the old continent because geologically they are this side of the mid-Atlantic ridge, are really the extreme tip of Portugal itself. For many years they were the westernmost outpost of our civilization, at a time the great Portuguese sailors were ever carrying further afield the frontiers of Europe.

The ancestors of those who peopled these islands came from the various nations of Europe, and even the variety of the scenery reflects the different lands of our continent.

But we cannot talk of the Europe of the past without mentioning the Europe which is in the making and which we know you are ready to take part in. Once the European Community felt strong enough to expand, you saw clearly that you should establish special ties with it--which is also our view-and thus important negotiations have started in Brussels. It is France's wish, in keeping with her philosophy at the Hague Conference, that they should succeed and that an agreement be reached which, while taking into account the specific features of the Portuguese economy, will bring your country both immediate benefits and the future prospects which it is entitled to expect from an arrangement designed to bring its economy gradually closer to that of the Common Market countries.

May I add that in the Azores, where we are meeting, traditions still reflect memories of France. French sailors were at one time attracted to the idea of settling in these beautiful islands, and although I have not been able to check this myself, I understand that their influence lingers on in certain aspects of local pronunciation. In any case, these island districts of Portugal fully contribute to the ties of all kinds which unite our two countries. First and foremost I should mention the cultural exchanges which through the centuries have never ceased to make the Franco-Portuguese relationship a particularly intimate one--and all the stronger because it is based not only on historical circumstances but even more on the preestablished harmonies which spring from the two countries' common Latin origin.

Today, this profound mutual understanding, which is based on far more than interest, facilitates extensive exchanges among people, and in so doing becomes even stronger. Despite inevitable difficulties which we solve together, the immigration of numbers of your compatriots to France has contributed, especially in recent years, and is contributing to a strengthening and a deepening of Franco-Portuguese friendship, while at the same time being beneficial, directly or indirectly, to the economy of both countries.

In turning towards President Nixon, with whom I had frank and searching talks early in 1970 and whom I saw again in sad circumstances in November of the same year, I would like to say that it would be difficult to find a better place for talks between the President of the United States and the President of the French Republic. The Azores were on the route of the great liners, which seemed to be drawn like a magnet to Sao Miguel; more recently they have been an airline stop between Europe and America; and so they are a link between the two continents. It is not without significance that we should be meeting here tonight, 26 years after the Second World War.

Our world today is, to be sure, one of uncertainty. Deplorable conflicts, like the one which is causing such tragedy between India and Pakistan, are there to remind us that nothing is ever settled once and for all, even if the fantastic development of the means of destruction produced by modern science has so far made men shrink from the prospect of wars such as those which Europe and, through Europe, the world have known twice in the 20th century. However, the stability of Europe, the economic growth and prosperity of our societies, international exchanges, the universality that has now been achieved in the United Nations--all these are factors of encouragement. If we are here tonight, it is no doubt because we want to prevent the difficulties of the monetary system of the West from upsetting a family of nations whose prosperity is fundamental for world equilibrium, but it is also because the United States and France, along with other countries, have deliberately and resolutely chosen to strive for better understanding among peoples and for the elimination of divisions based on ideological opposition. This is no easy task. But as representative of a country which today has ties of friendship and cooperation with nearly all states, I see in this gathering tonight an alliance between the tradition of European civilization, the dynamism of the New World, and even the Latin genius---all of which is a symbol of unity and hope.

I give you the toast: Admiral Americo Thomaz, President of the Republic of Portugal; our host, President Marcello Caetano; Mr. Richard Nixon, President of the United States of America; and the long-standing and long-lasting friendship between the people of Portugal, the people of America, and the people of France.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President, Prime Minister Marcello Caetano of Portugal, and President Georges Pompidou of France at a Dinner Hosted by the Prime Minister During Meetings in the Azores Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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