Ronald Reagan picture

Toasts at the State Dinner for President Jose Sarney Costa of Brazil

September 10, 1986

President Reagan. President Sarney, distinguished guests, it's a pleasure to have you here tonight. Our meetings today were businesslike and productive. The spirit of amicability and good will that were so evident throughout our sessions bodes well for the future. One of the benefits of such meetings, as we had today, is that they provide the opportunity for leaders to get to know each other. And in this case it was a delight. President Sarney is the leader of a great nation, sophisticated in the ways of politics and economics, yet a person with the heart of a poet—truly a Renaissance man.

Having been in the profession I was in for a good part of my life, it's an honor to have here this evening an individual whose interests lie not just with politics but also the arts. We believe in freedom not only because it reflects the most moral system of human interaction, not only because it leads to economic progress but also because it nourishes the artistic and creative spirit of man. President Sarney has said, "Literature and politics are inspired in the conscience of liberty." When one thinks of Brazil, it's difficult not to hear the sounds of music or the sight of joyous dance. Of course, Brazil is much more than that—and the sounds of construction and building are clearly evident today.

And after speaking with President Sarney, one cannot doubt that the richness of Brazil's soul is alive and well. President Sarney has faced great challenges since his first day as President. Following the tragic death of Dr. Tancredo Neves—a powerful event in the life of your nation—your countrymen and, yes, the rest of the world looked to you. Even in the best of circumstances, this would have been an awesome responsibility during this time of great transition. It required a truly remarkable leader, a man of vision and principle. President Sarney, I'm certain that you agree that, on occasion, the magnitude of problems faced by a head of state seem a bit overwhelming. If you'll permit an informal American expression on such a formal occasion, I usually put it this way: When you're up to your neck in alligators, it's hard to remember your original purpose was to drain the swamp. [Laughter]

Yet a true leader is one who does not lose sight of goals and ideals. He keeps the spirit of his people high and the course set in the right direction. And tonight we honor just such a leader. With exceptional diligence and strength of purpose, you are bringing your country, your beloved Brazil, into a new era of prosperity and freedom. Ruy Barbosa, a prominent Brazilian statesman and intellectual at the turn of the century, once said: "Some sow their cabbage patch merely for tomorrow's meal. Others plant an oak tree as a shelter for the future. While the first dig for themselves, the others plow for their country, for the happiness of their descendants, for the well-being of mankind."

President Sarney, let us pledge that the American and Brazilian people will plant oaks for a better tomorrow, and that they will do it together. And now, would you all join me in a toast to President Sarney and the people of Brazil.

President Sarney. Mr. President, Mrs. Nancy Reagan, as this will be our last opportunity on this trip to be together, I think it is a time for gratitude, a time to convey our thanks for the warmth, the hospitality, the kindness, and the spirit of friendship that has pervaded this stay. During dinner, the lady I was sitting next to told me of the American habit of making a wish when you see the first star. There is only one star that I can see up there in the sky tonight, so I think that we should all perhaps share the same wish—the wish for a permanent friendship between our two countries.

We've had many proofs of the kindness of the President of the United States. But we did not expect his esteem and kindness to extend as far as providing us with this unforgettable evening and a sky with one star and no clouds. When arriving here this evening, Mrs. Reagan pointed to the Moon, and I thought to myself, I've seen that girl somewhere before. It was two evenings ago in Brasilia. And again, that is a symbol that we share. And I repeat what I said this morning—two souls, one feeling.

You spoke of alligators, Mr. President. In Brazil, we have piranhas, and we also have a saying: "In times of strain and difficulties, when swimming in rivers full of piranhas, the only way is to play alligator and turn on your back." [Laughter]

I am deeply moved, Mr. President, by your kind remarks that reflect the spirit of friendship and cordiality of this memorable visit to Washington. And I think this reception this evening is the crowning achievement of this visit and this feeling of friendship and cooperation. I will never forget your words, I will never forget this evening—the friendship of this memorable visit to the United States and Washington. I have brought word of a country, Brazil, a country in transition, setting out to answer its most noble historic calling—to be a full democracy in which political freedom is reflected in the economic and social life of the nation. The United States is the land where freedom and the participation of the people have brought forth the most extraordinary material and social progress in history, an example to be always pursued. During our meeting with you, Mr. President, I found a partner willing to listen in an open and interested manner, and I'm quite certain that this will lead to further improvement in the longstanding and permanent friendship between our countries.

Your talent for imprinting your personal and decisive stamp on the form and substance of the Presidency and on the very history of the United States is surely an unmistakable demonstration of your statesmanship, which the people of the United States have overwhelmingly acclaimed. And I would say it in a far more eloquent fashion if I didn't have to lose so much time with the translation. [Laughter] This is a moment of friendly celebration marked by the warm hospitality extended us by our gracious American hosts. May I also, on behalf of Marly and on my own behalf, pay tribute in the name of the Brazilian people to Mrs. Nancy Reagan for her tireless work and efforts on behalf of the young. Mrs. Reagan has met with the admiration and the solidarity of the entire Brazilian people. And since I have come to the United States, I have become more aware, perhaps, of another contribution given by Mrs. Reagan to all mankind—the example she has set of love, as sharing of love as an expression of solidarity. The love of a wife for her husband is an example to all mankind.

In closing, Mr. President, because afterdinner speeches are always too long, no matter how short, may I, in this Rose Garden, propose a toast and ask you to join me in toasting the longstanding friendship between people of Brazil and the United States, the greatness and prosperity of the United States of America, and to your own personal success and happiness and that of Mrs. Reagan. God save America!

Note: President Reagan spoke at 10 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. President Sarney spoke in Portuguese, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts at the State Dinner for President Jose Sarney Costa of Brazil Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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