Toasts at the State Dinner for President Leon Febres-Cordero Ribadeneyra of Ecuador

January 14, 1986

President Reagan. President Febres-Cordero, Mrs. Cordero, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it's an honor tonight to welcome to the White House a national leader who is clearly devoted to the political and economic freedom of his people.

President Febres-Cordero, when you were elected, you were well known to the Ecuadorian people as a man who would not waver in pursuit of the welfare of his country, even in the face of enormous pressure. You promised leadership and reform, and you have not let your people down. When we met, I could see in you the strength of character and love of liberty which the Ecuadorian voters saw. It's been a genuine pleasure for me to get to know you better after our first meeting a year and a half ago.

Here in this historic setting, which was once the home of Thomas Jefferson, it's fitting to recall, President Febres-Cordero, the words of your last State of the Nation message to the Ecuadorian people. In it you said, ``Democracy is the highest and most noble political system that mankind has created throughout its history.'' Well, Jefferson would be proud of an expression such as that. Today we see a resurgence of democracy throughout the hemisphere, a resurgence which started, as did the cause of national independence, during the last century in Ecuador.

Democracy, as you have so eloquently stated on many occasions, Mr. President, is the way not only to freedom but also to peace and to economic progress. In Central America, we both know this is especially true. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your strong support of democracy in that troubled region. Those who would repress their own people and export subversion to their neighbors should not underestimate the depth of our commitment and steadfastness. They should note your words. You said, ``So long as the people are not given the full right to self-determination, there will not be peace in Central America.'' Well, those of us who enjoy freedom cannot take it for granted. We cannot turn our backs on those struggling for freedom against oppressive regimes. We must provide assistance.

And, Mr. President, in that same State of the Nation Address, you reminded your people that Quito was once termed the ``light of the Americas.'' And you challenged, ``All Ecuadorians must see to it that that light remain lit here and throughout the continent.'' Well, in this task, holding high the light of liberty and freedom, the people of our two countries can and should and will stand together. So, let us drink a toast to that and to you, President and Mrs. Febres-Cordero.

President Febres-Cordero. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, distinguished guests, as President Reagan mentioned in his very kind words of offering, the talks that he and I have had have been what talks between old friends are like. The President's affability and unpretentiousness, as well as the coincidences on many of our points of view over the destinies of our countries and of the whole hemisphere, have allowed us to leave formalities aside and enable us to have clear and frank exchange of views.

When in my youth I studied in this great country, I could not have imagined then that a moment like this could ever take place. At that time, I frequently watched Western movies -- [laughter] -- some of them featuring an extremely likable star -- [laughter] -- called Ronald Reagan. [Laughter] I must confess that I'm still an addict to Westerns. [Laughter] But now I view President Reagan as the actor of a more transcendental and historical role. Of course, Mr. President, this doesn't mean at all that there is a significant distance between our respective ages. We belong to the same generation, a generation that, fortunately, always believed in the everlasting values of dignity; a generation that was and is willing to face up to obstacles and to overcome the rigors imposed by nature and by men.

You and I, Mr. President, have in us something like a cowboy spirit, and with that spirit we are trying to improve the lot of our countrymen. Our peoples and all mankind, Mr. President, are going through a period of strains and unprecedented problems. You, as I in my own country, are responsible for taking the reins of the state with the conviction that in so doing we are effectively serving our peoples. But we cannot complain; we have asked for it. [Laughter] We have no one to whom to complain for the burdens that our duties impose upon us. You are performing your task with courage, with vigor, and keen sight that will be recorded, definitely, by history. I hope, too, that my efforts will likewise be fruitful and that Ecuadorians may soon be able to lead a better life and that my country, Ecuador, may reaffirm some of those transcendental values that have been lately threatened.

Let me, in thanking you for your toast, express my best wishes for your permanent well-being and that of your distinguished wife and ratify, at the same time, my confidence in your nation's leadership within the important affairs of the world. Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me now to raise the glass for the health and well-being of the President, Mrs. Reagan, and all her distinguished family.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 9:47 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.