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Toasts at the State Dinner for President Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua

April 17, 1991

President Bush. Ladies and gentlemen, we can get all this out of the way early. It is a distinct privilege for Barbara and me to salute this evening an extraordinary leader of honor, compassion, and courage.

With the greatest admiration, we welcome to the White House Nicaragua's President, Violeta Chamorro. Or, as I hear she was known by her growing family, or the family growing up, Madre Superiora. [Laughter] For those of you who don't speak good Spanish -- [laughter] -- that means "Mother Superior." For even as a young girl, Violeta could get her brothers and sisters standing at attention as she cracked her benevolent whip to get her family's house in order.

Well, now, this "Mother Superior" is getting her nation's house in order, and we honor her for it. We honor her as the conciliator who is forging a future of peace and unity for her beleaguered land, as the elected leader who ended a bitter civil war and who replaced a repressive and undemocratic regime, as the President whom history will acclaim as the liberator of not only her country's government but also of its heartbeat, its spirit.

Her people call her Dona Violeta, a name of affection and respect. And as I've come to know her I've understood, for she personifies the blend of resolve and compassion that inspires a nation to become the best it can be. I'll tell you something that impresses me. Not only is she working resolutely to bring about tangible reforms expanding democracy and economic opportunity, but she's also embarked on what she terms a quest to restore moral values. What a powerful goal in this age -- the most important goal there is.

And under the courageous and idealistic example of President Chamorro, Nicaragua is rediscovering the meaning of its coat of arms, the beautiful symbol embossed in the center of its flag: a triangle for equality, a rainbow for peace, and a shower of light for liberty shining throughout the land, liberty that's embodied by Violeta Chamorro and by her late husband and inspiration, Pedro Joaquin. He used to own a boat named Santa Libertad, glorious liberty.

Well, the world now watches as his widow steers her own Santa Libertad, her ship of state, bound for a bright horizon that promises freedom, respect, and dignity for every person in her land. On a shelf in President Chamorro's office is a plaque of a prayer she tries to live by. A prayer that, in fact, reminds me of her. The words are by St. Francis: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. For it is in giving that we receive, and it is in pardoning that we are pardoned."

Dona Violeta, you are an instrument of peace. Through your goals of reconciliation and liberty, you bring vision to your nation, you bring hope to the world. And so, may I ask that we rise and drink to the health -- Madam President, to your health and to that of your proud and courageous land. May God bless you.

President Chamorro. Please sit down. My dear friend, President of the United States of America, Mr. George Bush; her excellency, Mrs. Barbara Bush; ladies and gentlemen. Through an impressive worldwide plebiscite, the 20th century has taught us that one cannot build paradise by oppressing men and women. If there is to be happiness on Earth, there must first be liberty.

For almost a century, Nicaragua has struggled against dictatorships and militarism. It has fought for that sacred principle that gives men and women dignity and rights. Nicaragua has recovered its democracy. And I believe that we must complement this victory by reestablishing ties and a relationship with the nation that is the leader of democracy.

I am sure that you, my dear friend, Don George, who fought in World War II and lived through the horrors of war, share with me the anxious desire to banish violence. For it was violence that ended the life of my husband, Pedro Joaquin. I am sure that you share with me the desire to establish peace through dialog as well as new social paths with all sectors of the population.

That is why, Mr. President, we are going to build the 21st century from the painful experiences of this century so full of war and hatred. Our American democracies should serve as an example to the rest of the world of countries that are good and true neighbors. In the Americas of the future, there should be no division because the Americas are now the continent of hope.

Before concluding, my dear friends, Mr. President -- Don George, I would like to thank all of you for the warmth and kindness you've extended to me. I offer you my friendship. Wait. [Laughter]

Mr. President, I toast with you and with all of those present here to the permanent friendship between two democracies united by their common faith in liberty and the dignity of mankind. Thank you.

Note: President Bush spoke at 8:10 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to President Chamorro's late husband, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro. President Chamorro spoke in Spanish, and her remarks were translated by an interpreter.

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

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