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Toasts at the State Dinner for President Francesco Cossiga of Italy

October 11, 1989

President Bush. Mr. President, welcome. Barbara and I are delighted to have this opportunity to renew our friendship and to return the hospitality that we've felt on every one of our visits to your country. And it's a great honor to host a man who has held almost every high office that Italy has to offer.

If I took the time to list every single job you've held, the dinner would be cold and out of date. [Laughter] But let me mention three: your service as a navy man, a former legislator, and President of the Senate. I've always thought that those experiences alone would be enough to prepare anyone for the Presidency. [Laughter]

And Mr. President, when I asked my advisers about the secret of your success, they told me that you have an especially interesting method to keep in touch with Italian public opinion. I wonder how many Italian ham radio operators know that the fellow who signs off as Andy Capp is really the President of Italy. And sure enough -- [laughter].

But, sir, on a serious vein, I do place great importance on the meetings that we had this morning, speaking with candor and from the heart, as friends, just the way it ought to be. And all of us here tonight know that relations between Italy and the United States have never been stronger. They really never have been.

And for millions of Americans, Italy is the old country -- home of a proud heritage, a heritage written into every page of the history of Western civilization. The greatness of Rome was known, of course, throughout the world, more than a thousand years before our country or this continent was even known to exist. And America has always been the New World, discovered by your great adventurer, Columbus -- a land of possibilities, a place where a new history could be written. And that history, our history, is one that the sons and daughters of Italy helped to write.

And so, tonight I offer this toast to old friends and also to the new Italy: a great and growing economic power, one of the world's foremost democracies, a strong and valued ally and a partner in the community of free nations.

And so, let us raise our glasses to President Francesco Cossiga, to the Republic of Italy, and to the lasting friendship and love between the people of Italy and America.

President Cossiga. Mr. President, Mrs. Bush, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to thank you again also on behalf of Foreign Minister De Michelis and the delegation accompanying me for the warm welcome extended to us in Washington. Mr. President, you wish to address to me very kind words to recall also the times when I was a young man and I was known as Andy Capp. [Laughter] I think that this name has helped me to overcome my handicaps. [Laughter]

Mr. President, I know fairly well that in the United States the political struggle is quite hard, but I ask you to believe me if I say that in Italy it is not easier. [Laughter]

Mr. President, your kind words through my person are addressed to my country and to the Italian people, thus confirming the deep-rooted friendship between Italy and the United States of America. Indeed, Italians and Americans share the fundamental values which inspire our common activity: the values of freedom, of peaceful development and progress, and of cooperation with all nations in full mutual respect. As your history as a nation was dawning, you placed the ideals of freedom, democracy, and social justice as the foundation stones of your Revolution. These same values which were enshrined for the first time in the American Constitution were subsequently taken up and reaffirmed in the fundamental charters of all democratic countries. And like your Revolution, the two great movements that brought about Italy's unification and national redemption, the Risorgimento and the Resistance, were based on the concept of the indissoluble and intimate relationship between the independence of the nation and the freedom of the individual.

During our conversations a few months ago in Rome at the Quirinal, what I noticed most particularly, Mr. President, was the emphasis with which you reaffirmed the continued importance of these values in view of the forceful, auspicious, but also at times perilous changes that are taking place on the international stage. Today we can safely state that those principles which underlie our political system and our joint endeavors have won through. We can rely on the knowledge that the values of freedom are not only secure but enduring, as the great Italian scholar Benedetto Croce emphasized when he wrote: "When the question is heard whether liberty will enjoy what is known as the future, the answer must be that it has something better still; it has eternity."

Faced with the momentous events we are witnessing -- first and foremost, the evolutionary process taking place in the Soviet Union -- those who have traditionally fought for the principles of democracy, as we have, must actively endeavor to encourage the full deployment of the potentialities now emerging. This is a common duty incumbent on the whole of the West, and its import and significance are certainly not lost on the members of the European Community. They intend to redouble their efforts to establish a climate of ever-greater mutual confidence and to restore increasingly close economic, cultural, and human relations throughout the European Continent.

Mr. President, it was also thanks to your contribution that the Atlantic summit last May confirmed the vitality of the alliance which binds us and made it possible to lay the foundations for that great improvement in East-West relations hoped for by us all. But the values and principles which our countries share should not be limited to creating common ground with regard to the great issues of relations between America and Europe and between East and West. We must work in harmony in many other fundamental fields, guaranteeing the sustained economic growth of developed countries and providing the aid which less-developed countries need in order to liberate themselves from the slavery of hunger, solving the regional conflicts that are still being waged, and overcoming the major problems afflicting mankind, regardless of national borders and irrespective of political and economic distinctions. I am referring in particular to the pollution of our planet, organized crime, terrorism, and to the dramatic scourge of the spread of drugs.

Mr. President, Italy is proud to have made its contribution of culture and personal sacrifice to the birth of a nation whose greatness and strength also stem from its diversity and its ability to absorb and assimilate contributions from the whole world into its lifeblood -- a nation whose great destiny was from the very beginning of your Revolution foreseen by Daniele Dolfin, the Ambassador of the Venetian Republic to Paris and a friend of Benjamin Franklin, when, in a dispatch sent in 1783, he wrote: "We may well expect that with the aid of time and of European arts and knowledge, this nation will become the most formidable power in the universe."

Mr. President, the few years that separate us from the end of the second millenium offer all of us a historic opportunity to steer the future course of mankind along the path of peace, freedom, and prosperity. I am certain that it is in this great undertaking, which we might well describe in the words of Lincoln as the triumphal march of civilization, the United States and Italy can work together to make a strong and significant contribution towards its realization.

And it is with these sentiments, Mr. President, and renewing to you and to Mrs. Bush my thanks, I would like all those present here to raise their glasses with me in a toast to the prosperity of the United States of America, to the success of the work of your administration, to your personal well-being, to that of Mrs. Bush, and to the friendship between our two peoples. To the President of the United States of America.

Note: President Bush spoke at 10:13 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. President Cossiga spoke in Italian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George Bush, Toasts at the State Dinner for President Francesco Cossiga of Italy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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