Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Salvador Jorge Blanco of the Dominican Republic

April 10, 1984

President Reagan. President and Mrs. Jorge Blanco, it's indeed an honor for me to welcome you, the first President of your country to make a state visit to the United States. This is a special visit. The people of our countries are both friends and neighbors, and we're pleased to have this opportunity to express our good will to neighbors who reflect the same love of liberty in which we take such pride.

The Dominican Republic today shines as a beacon of freedom-loving people everywhere. Your people have shown the spirit, courage, and perseverance necessary to build, in your words, ``a true functional democracy in the Caribbean.'' Democracy, as all free people have found, is not the easiest path, but it is the best one. It is the way most consistent with the spirit of the New World, with the values of which all Americans from one end of the hemisphere to the other can claim as their birthright.

As such, it is fitting that the Dominican Republic, with its stability and political liberty, now shows others the way. Your nation, after all, was the beachhead of Western civilization in the New World. Christopher Columbus, the great discoverer, landed on your shores during his first voyage of exploration. In your country still stands the first cathedral of America, built in 1540. The hopes and dreams of all the Americans once focused on those hardy souls who left the Old World and entered the New through the doorway of Santo Domingo.

Today, as you strive to increase the opportunity of all your citizens, you follow in the spirit of those who came before you. You face many challenges in invigorating your economy and improving the standard of living of your people. Yet even in the days of Columbus, the magnificent beauty and vast potential of your land were evident. In early 1493 Columbus wrote, ``In that island . . . we named Espanola, there are mountains of very great size and beauty, vast plains, groves, and very fruitful fields . . . . The convenience and excellence of the harbors in this island and the abundance of the rivers . . . surpass anything that would be believed by one who had not seen it.'' Well, that beauty and that potential still remain. Coupled now with freedom, your people have every reason to expect that great things can be accomplished.

President Jorge Blanco, it is propitious that your visit coincides with Pan American Week, a time when we have for the last 53 years celebrated the ties between the peoples of the Western Hemisphere. The people of the United States place great value on the special ties that we have with friends close to home. And while the progress of any country depends most heavily on the freedom, the hard work, and ingenuity of its own people and government, the United States is committed to healthy cooperation with our Caribbean Basin neighbors for the betterment of all our peoples.

Combined with your own domestic reforms, which we heartily applaud, the trade and commerce unleashed by the Caribbean Basin Initiative should bring vast new opportunities to Dominicans and to other Caribbean people. Your country and some two dozen others will now have for most of your products virtually unrestricted duty-free entry until 1996 into the world's largest market. Never before has the United States or any other nation offered one-way free trade to any regional group of countries. It's a revolutionary step based on the conviction that enterprise, investment, and job creation will elevate the quality of life while preserving the freedom and independence so cherished by both our peoples.

There is a Caribbean country on a much different path. Instead of economic freedom, it imposes heavy-handed controls, denying for people, for example, the right of private ownership and the right to organize independent unions. Instead of seeking mutual respect and friendly commerce with its neighbors, it exports violence and hatred. Instead of enjoying democratic liberties as are guaranteed in the Dominican Republic and most other Caribbean countries, its people are denied freedom of the press, speech, and religion. This tyranny has brought little hope for economic progress, providing its people only shortages and foodlines. Cuba is now dependent on a faraway totalitarian power without whose subsidy its dictatorial government could not export aggression or, indeed, survive.

Such serfdom and bowing to the interests of faraway masters is not consistent with the legacy of the people of this hemisphere. Our history is that of breaking away from such tutelage, and in this all Americans have a common vision. Your proud independence and the continuing strength of democracy in the Dominican Republic is a tremendous inspiration here and to other people in the hemisphere who are now battling to establish their own democracies.

President Jorge Blanco, we in the United States are fully aware that the success of democratic institutions in your country is due to the good will and strenuous efforts of individuals like yourself. You and your fellow countrymen have our respect. As we work to build a more prosperous and happy future, let us continue to open the doors of commerce and social interaction between our peoples.

In less than a decade we will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of a history-shattering event -- Columbus' first great voyage of discovery. We look forward to commemorating this, one of mankind's greatest leaps, with the free people of the Dominican Republic.

Mr. President, Pedro Henriquez Urena, a renowned literary figure as well as a great Dominican patriot, once wrote, ``Words are like empty sacks. One must fill them with true human feeling.'' Well, I hope today that you can sense the feeling, the warmth, and admiration behind these words of welcome. President and Mrs. Jorge Blanco, we're proud to have you visiting with us.

President Jorge Blanco. President Reagan, Mrs. Reagan, ladies and gentlemen, my greetings to you, President Reagan, to your distinguished wife, and to the representatives of your government -- and greetings, also, to the generous people of the United States.

I am very pleased with this state visit, made at your invitation and which begins at the doorstep of the majestic White House, which represents and symbolizes the prestigious image of the United States all over the world.

Since the Pilgrims arrived on the shores of Massachusetts in search of a safe haven in order to freely exercise their religious and political ideas; through the heroic struggles which culminated in independence and the establishment of the first democracy in the Americas; and then on to the emancipation of the slaves proclaimed by the eminent Abraham Lincoln, your people have been and are a model for men who join together in support of the eternal ideals of human freedom and dignity. These common efforts have created the great melting pot of races and cultures which is the United States of America.

As President and as jurist, I must recall with admiration the important documents which sustain the institutional history of the great American people, and which have established landmarks in the upward climb of humanity -- the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, the Proclamation of the Four Freedoms by Roosevelt, among many others, have been and shall always be the most outstanding example of this nation's contributions to equality, democracy, and social progress.

We represent a Dominican democracy which is nourished, among other sources, by the old teachings which came precisely from this great nation when it proclaimed its independence on the 4th of July of 1776. Since that time, freedom has had its most immediate origin on these American lands.

In the Dominican Republic, we have always fought for freedom, and our recent history increasingly has enhanced this struggle, which is the mainstay of our democracy, playing a vital role within the inter-American system, whose principles have been incorporated into the fundamental charter of our Organization of American States.

I am particularly grateful, Mr. President, for the reference you made to my political role of responsibility for the destinies of my country, and of the difficult task that I face in strengthening our democracy, while at the same time facing the dire effects of an international economic crisis which has dealt harsh blows to the weak economies and fragile political institutions of developing countries. And I want to express my appreciation for the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which has opened new possibilities for the development of our countries in the Caribbean.

We are pleased with the certainty that our efforts will always receive the encouragement and cooperation of friendly peoples, particularly the people of this great nation which never falters in its resolve to provide necessary and important solidarity.

I accept your words of praise towards me as a recognition of the values of the Dominican people, firmly resolved to enrich its political democracy with economic and social development and to strengthen peace throughout the hemisphere. I hope that our visit will serve to strengthen even more the firm bonds of friendship and of mutual cooperation between our governments and between our peoples.

And now I would hope that our visit will be able to provide us, a visit which we are making at your kind invitation, with a way to increase even more the very strong bonds of friendship that exist between your people and mine.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 10:10 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House, where President Jorge Blanco was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors. President Jorge Blanco spoke in Spanish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Following the ceremony, the two Presidents, together with U.S. and Dominican officials, met together, first in the Oval Office and then in the Cabinet Room.