Toast at a Luncheon Meeting With Italian President Alessandro Pertini in Rome

June 7, 1982

It's a genuine privilege to be here today and, most especially, as the guest of President Pertini. The poet Robert Browning wrote, ``Open my heart and you will see 'graved inside of it Italy.''

As countless immigrants to my nation's shores would confirm, Italy is engraved inside millions of American hearts. And, Mr. President, after your recent trip to the United States, the name Pertini also is engraved in our hearts.

In my time at the White House, I don't remember as beautiful and moving a gesture as the kiss you planted on our flag that March morning. That kiss touched all the citizens of my country. We were deeply honored.

And, Mr. President, I want to say personally how honored I feel to call you amico. The word ``friend'' certainly characterizes the relationship between Italy and the United States. We're drawn together by the blood of our people and the bonds of our Western ideals. We share a devotion to liberty and the determination to preserve that liberty for ourselves and our descendants.

Yes, we live in difficult times that test our beliefs. The independence and freedom of people the world over are threatened by the expansion of totalitarian regimes and by the brutal crimes of international terrorism. But let me say I am optimistic. The West simply needs to believe in itself and in its own leadership to succeed.

Italy and her people are abundant in that leadership. Italy has made hard but self-confident choices in recent years. The Atlantic Alliance is firm in large part because of Italian determination to assume major responsibilities within NATO for our common defense. Prospects for peace are improved because of Italy's contribution to such efforts as the Sinai Multi-National Force.

The free world better appreciates human dignity and justice thanks to Italy's principled stand on Afghanistan and Poland. And, of course, there is Italy's integrity in the face of terrorism. And let me cite here the brilliant operation that freed General Dozier.

These issues have required difficult decisions. They have required political decisiveness beyond the ordinary. So, I want to pay special tribute to you, President Pertini, Prime Minister Spadolini, Foreign Minister Colombo, and to the entire Italian Government for the resolution you've shown and the example that you have given.

In return, I want to assure you that the United States stands behind you in defending the values of the West. The Atlantic Alliance is still the heart of our foreign policy, and that heart beats for peace and freedom.

The United States is fortunate to enjoy the friendship of Italy and the Italian people. We are wiser for your counsel and stronger for your partnership. Like the great Virgil, we Americans believe: As long as rivers shall run down to the sea or shadows touch the mountain slopes or stars graze in the vaulted heavens, so long shall your honor, your name, your praises endure.

Mr. President, amico, ladies and gentlemen, may I propose a toast to Italy and to her honor, her name, and her praises. May they long endure.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 3 p.m. in the Hall of Mirrors at the Quirinale Palace, the residence of the Italian President. He spoke in response to a toast proposed by President Pertini.

Earlier, President Pertini greeted President Reagan in a brief arrival ceremony, and then the two Presidents met in President Pertini's office at the Palace.

Following the luncheon meeting, the President went to Chigi Palace, where he met with Prime Minister Giovanni Spadolini. While he was at Chigi Palace, the President participated in a brief ceremony honoring the Italian police who freed Brig. Gen. James L. Dozier, Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics and Administration, Allied Land Forces Southern Europe, from his Red Brigades captors in Verona, Italy, on December 17, 1981.