Jimmy Carter photo

Visit to Panama Toast at the State Dinner.

June 17, 1978

General Torrijos, President Lakas, President Perez, President Michelsen, President Carazo, Prime Minister Manley, distinguished [fiends from Panama and the United States:

It's a great pleasure for me to be in a country where people are so hospitable and friendly, where the President has the first name of Jimmy and the Foreign Minister is a graduate of the University of Georgia, and where the Chief of State is the only person in the world that knows better than I do the Senators of the United States. [Laughter]

I noticed tonight that when he has not met the Senators before, as soon as he hears their voice, he knows who it is. [Laughter] We've brought the Senators with good voices. [Laughter]

We have found the Panamanian negotiators and their Chief of State to be tough, prudent, fair, tenacious, friendly, and gracious.

As we move toward a time of increased friendship, equality, and partnership, many people in the United States have taken the time and effort to learn more about Panama. We have learned about the pride of the people, their dignity, and we've seen at first hand now the tremendous new investment, under this administration, in those who in the past have been deprived and poor.

We have seen the rapid development of the poor in the rural and urban areas and the heavy investment that has been made in alleviating hunger here, increasing the economic well-being of the people, and the heavy emphasis on better health care and better education. Primary education is available to all, and the enrollment in the schools increased, at one time, 80 percent in just 3 years.

I grew up on a farm in Georgia that did not have running water, and I've observed the statistics that show that formerly less than 50 percent of the people in this country had running, fresh water. Now more than 85 percent are scheduled to have this very basic need filled by the year 1980.

General Torrijos has a great slogan. He wants to do away with the class struggle and have a classroom struggle instead.

We in the United States know that the world is changing. We've recognized this fact by establishing a new relationship with our longtime friend and neighbor, Panama. And I believe that we have now seen the clear need to recognize the innate and sacred sovereignty of the people in this great country, to reaffirm our commitment to the principle of nonintervention, and to face the future with a realization of the benefits to us as well as to Panama from a new partnership that has now been formed.

My friend Omar Torrijos and I have decided to serve our nations in a time without challenge and without difficulty. [Laughter]

We have been successful, I believe, in convincing the people of both nations that the difficult decisions that have been made were the proper ones. And the reception today is a vivid demonstration, beyond anything we had anticipated or had hoped for, that there is a deep and abiding friendship among the Panamanian people for those of the United States. And we share the same feeling for your people, General Torrijos.

The years ahead will not be easy. There will inevitably be differences of opinion, and perhaps the partnership which we celebrate this evening will have its trying moments. But with the foundation of friendship and mutual trust and good will and easy communication between us, there is no doubt in my mind that we can protect and preserve the Panama Canal for the benefit of our people and for the benefit of the world and minimize those differences that might otherwise cause dissension among our people.

I look forward to this coming time, and I believe that we can avoid any challenge to this commitment which we have made together.

After the interpreter repeats my next toast, I would like for us to drink to General Torrijos for his patience and determination, to President Lakas for his leadership which inspired the Panamanian people to approve the terms of the treaty, to the people of this great country for their sense of equality and their sense of trust and their willingness to assume a new partnership, to the leaders and people of Latin America, and to the principles which bind us together—liberty, dignity, equality, mutual respect, peace, and permanent friendship.

Note: The President spoke at 12:10 a.m. at the Old Golf Club. President Lopez Michelsen of Colombia responded to the President's toast.

Jimmy Carter, Visit to Panama Toast at the State Dinner. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248773

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