Toast at a Luncheon for the Heads of Delegations to the 40th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, New York

October 23, 1985

Well, Mr. Secretary General and distinguished guests, on behalf of the people of the United States, I'm honored to be with you today to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the United Nations. The world is a busy place. It's full of movement and action, and it's good for us to get away from things for an hour or two and meet in the quiet of this great room, consider the meaning of the United Nations, its past and its future. There are a great number of distinguished world leaders here today. I believe, Mr. Secretary General, that their presence bears witness to the enduring vitality of the idea of the United Nations. I believe it also bears witness to the success of your leadership during a challenging time for both the U.N. and the world.

This anniversary, for all of us -- a time for reflection as well as celebration. The nations and the peoples of the world value the United Nations for many things, but most, perhaps, for what it symbolizes. The U.N. began as a symbol of hope and reconciliation 40 years ago after the worst war in history; it's no less a symbol today. The United Nations is still a symbol of man's great hope that some day he'll be able to resolve all disputes through peaceful discussion and never again through the force of arms. The United Nations is a symbol of man's long struggle to rise beyond his own flawed nature and live by the high ideals that the best of mankind have defined and declared down through the ages.

As the host country, the United States believes in the United Nations and in what it symbolizes. We have criticized it sometimes in the past when we felt that it was not all it could be and should be. And we have on occasion been frustrated, but we have never stopped believing in its possibilities, and we've never stopped taking the United Nations seriously. That is why we are determined to see to it that the United Nations lives up to its noble potential to further the cause of freedom, defend individual rights, increase economic growth and well-being, and strengthen the rule of law.

And so, today, 40 years after the birth of the United Nations and 15 years before the end of the century whose tribulations inspired it, let us, together, seize the moment. Let us recapture the vision of the charter and recall the principles upon which the U.N. was founded. Let us resolve to make this organization and the world it represents a better, safer place. And let us renew our commitment, individually and together, to peace and justice and the rights of man. And may I presume to suggest a toast to the Secretary General and what he has accomplished and what he is doing for all of us.

Note: The President spoke at 2:45 p.m. in the North Delegate's Lounge at the United Nations in response to a toast by Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar de la Guerra.