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Toasts at a Working Luncheon in Monrovia, Liberia

April 03, 1978

PRESIDENT TOLBERT. Mr. President, we deeply share your benign concern for the human family—that its members should not be disgraced by racism, oppression, and repression—from mutual understanding and respect for our fundamental pedestals to the attainment of permanent peace. But in southern Africa, evidences lead one to conclude that the ugly cranium of apartheid is intent on the course of dangerous self-perpetuation. And the scenario of its mischievous maneuvers is protracted, unproductive talks, brutal murders and assassinations, resulting in almost irreparable chaotic upheavals and deep internal divisions.

The heinous hammer of repression must be stayed in all nations of the world, of whatever description. Indeed, Mr. President, in southern Africa, where racial bigotry and minority rule defy and deny human dignity and basic freedoms, the conscience of mankind is being terrorized into desperation.

In this, we would urge a positive American policy of creativity which would inhibit, rather than prevent or bewail, the occurrences of external subversion and armed intervention, particularly between proxies of the super powers.

World opposition to apartheid must be more resolute and positive. Full and legal transition to majority rule and multiracial accords must follow from more consistent, speedy, and dynamic initiatives.

We deeply share your concern for the well-being of civilization as a whole, that it should not mercilessly fall beneath the increasing burden of destructive weaponry and economic exploitation, but rise to lift the heavy loads of development, for the armaments of peace are at once the premise of progress and widespread productivity.

We would welcome a more positive approach to the implementation of deferred decisions regarding improved trade and aid among nations, at better terms and a more valuable composition, at new levels and rewarding benefits.

The gulf between privilege and deprivation can be narrowed in Third World countries as industrial capacities are established, as rural, traditional agriculture is transformed by modern metals.

Beyond the periscope of infamy in southern Africa lies the periphery of fertile, potential, and productive cooperation across this continent.

There is the persistent realization that Africa can benefit tremendously by significantly closer cooperation and greater economic aid.

In this connection, we would urgently suggest a policy of concentration and impact in an area like rural agriculture, particularly in labor-scarce economy. Perhaps one commodity or a few commodities could be selected for productive transformation and be made the objective of intensive capital and managerial assistance; channeled through a corporate entity, will spread effects to a constellation of small farmers.

This may alter what moves in trade, but it could change the living of millions through the exchange of more capital goods as well as technical assistance. And it could thoroughly magnetize other countries towards the fruit of peace and productivity, towards material necessities and spiritual indispensables.

Let us see the challenge not so of controversy, but let us fulfill in Africa the challenge of humanity and the promise of developing democracy, to ship them and to make them vibrant examples of international peace, human rights, and economic justice.

Mr. President, in over 130 years of Liberia's independence, you are the first United States President ever to visit our capital city of Monrovia, named for another American leader, President James Monroe. And we sincerely wish that you will be first to return and abide with us for a much longer period.

Mr. President, you have called for close cooperation among the rural, industrial democracies of the world. Mindful of Liberia's intractable commitment to the community of the free, we are gratified that you, in the spirit of interdependence, are fostering by this visit strong cooperation between the powerful nations of the First World and the small democracies of the Third World.

Mr. President, we consider this visit an all too brief one. Albeit, it brightens the horizon of our hopes that the flower of more sublime friendship, greater cooperation, and development will emerge from the seeds we sow today.

We'll be content when there is more in Africa, the real spirit and meaning of United States-Liberia unique and special ties. We'll be truly satisfied in mutual, enthusiastic endeavors to make our example of democracy in Africa a clear, magnetic, and convincing one.

Mr. Secretary of State, Dr. Brzezinski, visiting guests, officials of government, friends: May I ask you to rise and raise your glasses with me and drink lustily to the success and continued well-being of our great and good friend, the President of the United States of America, and to the ever-accelerating cooperation between the great United States of America and the Republic of Liberia.

To President Jimmy Carter.

PRESIDENT CARTER. President Tolbert and distinguished leaders of the great country of Liberia, whose very name reminds us of the commitment that you have espoused through a century and a hall and more, a commitment to individual human freedom and to the liberty of the human soul:

As you know, my own Nation suffered during the time of the War Between The States as we struggled to achieve equality of opportunity and freedom for all our people. And the example that you have set in Africa has indeed been inspirational not only to us in the United States but also to others in this continent who have seen the stability and the enlightened leadership provided from your great country.

I've also known and admired your President, President Tolbert, long before I became President of the United States, even before I became Governor of Georgia.

As a Baptist, he was recognized in religious circles as a preeminent person in our denomination. As president of the Baptist World Alliance, he again showed the commitment to equality of opportunity among all people. He was the first black man who ever honored Baptists by serving as our leader. And during that time when he was a religious leader, he was also Vice President of your country, and he combined the knowledge of his frequent travels throughout Liberia, to the most distant recesses of your country, with his travels around the world, to shape his own mind and his own heart toward better service for you and for his fellow men even to today.

I noticed the first sign as we rounded the corner coming from the airport taught us something in America. It said, "No joke, no imported rice in 1980." [Laughter] I'm going to take this message back to Dr. James Schlesinger in our country and have a slogan, "No joke, no imported oil in the future, because we're going to do a good job on energy." But I noticed that as we rode in, and he gave me a very instructive presentation of the problems and opportunities, the achievements and the challenges of your country, how much he knew intimately and personally about the needs of the average citizen in Liberia, who's not yet been blessed adequately.

The President tells me that he grows his own rice now, and he not only has enough for his own family but he shares it with his neighbors. And this spirit of self-sufficiency, even in the face of poverty in some parts of your country, is indeed again an inspiration to us.

I've had a chance to talk to him briefly about some of the other problems in Africa.

As black men struggle, black women struggle to achieve the right to shape their own lives, to choose their own government, to manage their own future-we've not reached this goal in your continent. And in Zimbabwe, in Namibia, in South Africa, we share a common hope of majority rule of freedom of expression of one's own will in shaping the family and the human life, and a freedom from racial discrimination, apartheid in all its heinous aspects.

I think that you all recognize, as a very close friend of the United States, that our intimate involvement in using our influence in Africa in a beneficial way has been a recent development. It's not an initiative of mine or other leaders of our country who came before me. I think it's a true expression of the growing interest that existed in the hearts and the minds of American citizens before Government leaders accurately represented what our people truly wanted.

The black citizens of the United States have reminded those of us who happen to be white of a need and the opportunities for us here. It's not been a matter of the United States doing a favor to the people of Africa. It's a matter of the United States acting in its own best interests, because we know, now and in the future, that our economic well-being, the political stability of the world, the peace that we all desire and cherish, can only come with a stable, free, and independent Africa and—as your President has just so wisely said—free of interference of military or other nature from outside forces or from their proxies.

This is especially true today in Angola, in the Horn of Africa, where we want to see outside military forces and outside influence depart, because we are convinced, as are you, that the people of Africa are completely capable and have the desire to shape their own affairs and need no outside help, except in a mutual bargaining position related to economic development, better health care, better education, better homing, better food, better clothing for the people here.

I might add one other point. I think it's also true, if President Tolbert would forgive my saying so, that he is now beginning to enjoy a much more profound influence in the affairs of the continent of Africa. His leadership qualities are now being recognized by others. And with this vigor that is being shown here in Liberia, the beneficial influence of your societal structure and your deep commitment to the basic human rights values can be of additional help to other struggling nations not nearly so blessed as yours with the long history of commitment to freedom.

I think it was a superb exhibition of leadership recently when, under President Tolbert's leadership here in your capital of Monrovia, the leaders of almost enemy nations, ones who had not had a peaceful relationship with one another, were brought together, the West African nations, and left this meeting with a new public commitment to resolve their differences peacefully, and not in a spirit of animosity or distrust or hatred.

This was a superb demonstration of regional leadership. And if my information is correct, when the Organization of African Unity meets here next year, your leader will be blessed again and Africa will be blessed again with a new, additional assignment that will let the good influence of Liberia be felt and also recognized throughout this continent. We look forward to that bright prospect with a great deal of interest and appreciation.

I might say that the most memorable experience of a very fine trip for us was the overwhelming welcome of your people this morning.

In a nation with less than 2,000 total inhabitants, only about 20 percent of whom live here in the seacoast area, I was amazed at the number of people who came forward to express a welcome to us all. And my only question is, where did they all come from? And who was doing the work in Liberia today while all your people came to make us feel welcome? It was an overwhelming experience, and I could tell in the gestures that they made and in the friendship on their faces that they, like the people of the United States, recognize the historic warmth that has existed between our countries, the mutual advantage that comes from this strong friendship, and the prospect of an even stronger and deeper and brighter friendship in the months and the years ahead.

I would like to propose a toast at this time. On behalf of the people of the United States, I would like to propose a toast to your great leader, President Tolbert, and to the wonderful people of the great nation of Liberia.

Note: The exchange began at 2:15 p.m. in the Presidential Dining Room at the Executive Mansion.

Jimmy Carter, Toasts at a Working Luncheon in Monrovia, Liberia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244888

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