Toast at a White House Dinner Honoring the Chiefs of Diplomatic Missions

February 11, 1982

Mr. Ambassador, Mrs. Ghorbal, Your Excellencies, and ladies and gentlemen:

Nancy and I are delighted to welcome you here tonight. It's a great pleasure to have this chance to meet with you more as friends than as representatives of our countries, more for passing a pleasant evening than transacting business.

It's inspiring to look around this room, to think of the many languages, cultures, religions, and traditions that are present here tonight. Some might say this gathering is a microcosm of the problems that the world faces -- [laughter] -- but to me this gathering is a sample of the opportunities we have to communicate on a personal level and to cooperate as representatives of our independent nations.

This room is occupied by men and women aware of their responsibilities and respectful of the obligations of others. Those responsibilities and obligations are at times in conflict, but our commitment to civility and the proper discourse between nations should never waiver. Today's diplomats shoulder a tremendous burden, but the effort is reminiscent of Antilles, the character in Greek mythology, who drew his strength from the Earth: So long as he touched the Earth, he could not be defeated, but when he lost touch, he grew frail. As long as our governments stay in touch with the hopes and aspirations of our people, the prospects for world peace will be strong.

Beneath our diversity, the peoples of the world have similar goals. They look for dignity, peace, freedom, and a chance to prosper. These common dreams will be the source of our strength.

George Santayana, an American traveler and philosopher, once said, ``A man's feet must be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.'' Well, this is the vision required of each of us and of every world leader. We must uncompromisingly represent the interests of our countries, yet be ever mindful that by our actions, we are determining the future of mankind.

If I may, I would present to you the same words with which I would challenge an assembly of American diplomats: In the conduct of your duties, be diligent; in the search for peace, be bold.

The people of the world owe a special debt of gratitude to diplomats and their families, who today must cope not only with the frustrations inherent with the profession, but also with personal danger. In the last 15 years, diplomats from over a hundred countries have been victims of terrorist attacks. Fortunately, most have survived those attacks; a few, tragically, have not. Those who perpetrate these dastardly acts should never doubt that every nation considers an attack on any diplomat as a crime against mankind which will not be tolerated in any land.

Reflecting on this, we're grateful to the diplomatic community for your courage and your perseverance. So, since there's no one of us that will be toasted separately, I ask you now to raise your glasses with me in a toast in honor of the Washington Chiefs of Missions: May mankind profit by what we do.

Now, don't break the glasses in the fireplace. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 9:50 p.m. in the East Room at the White House at the first of two dinners honoring the chiefs of diplomatic missions. Ambassador Ashraf A. Ghorbal of Egypt responded to the President's toast.