View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 28, 1998
                      REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON
                           AT OFFICIAL DINNER

                             The East Room 

8:50 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. Mr. President, Mrs. Pastrana, members of the Colombian delegation, distinguished guests, it's a great pleasure to welcome all of you to the White House for this dinner in honor of the President and the First Lady of Colombia.

Today President Pastrana and I worked hard to advance the partnership between Colombia and the United States. Tonight we celebrate our friendship, among friends. It is a long friendship indeed, going back to our struggles for independence, including, as President Pastrana discussed today, an alliance in war as well as peace.

After all these years the United States remains captivated by Colombia -- by the power of Colombian art, the force of Colombian literature, and, I might add, the strength of Colombian coffee. (Laughter.) Indeed, if ever a prize is given to any of the people who negotiated the peace treaty at Wye, something will have to be given to Colombia, for without the coffee it would not have occurred. (Laughter and applause.)

The United States is grateful for the many contributions Colombians make to our national life, as students, teachers, athletes, and every occupation between.

Mr. President, your election this summer marks the beginning of a new era in your country's history and in our long relationship. Bravely, you have placed Colombia on the path to peace. You have taken hard steps toward renewed prosperity. We look forward to walking with you into the 21st century. We still have much to learn from, and to give to, each other.

We live in a hemisphere on a planet growing ever smaller. In our independence, every day we grow more interdependent. If we would be strong, we must lift others. If we would fulfill our own promise, we must help others live their dreams. We must, in short, go forward together.

In the last phrase of what has famously become known in the United States as my favorite novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, our guest and friend tonight, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, says, "Races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on Earth." In the 21st century let us move away from isolation, solitude, loneliness, to build 100 years of an American family together.

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to join me in a toast to the President and First Lady of Colombia and to the people of their great land.

(A toast was offered.)


PRESIDENT PASTRANA: Mr. President, Mrs. Clinton, Madam Secretary of State, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Nohra. Thank you, Mr. President and Mrs. Clinton, for the warmth of the welcome you have extended to Nohra and me and the members of our delegation.

Mrs. Clinton, you are an inspiration to women here and everywhere. Nohra said she felt she knew you before she met you, and I think there are many others who share that feeling. You are the First Lady of the world. (Applause.)

Nohra's meetings with you have been as productive as my meetings with the President. She will return home more committed than ever to her own work to combat child abuse and bring health care to poor and rural Colombians. I know Nohra will succeed as you have, because she too is a woman of great grace and great determination. (Applause.)

I know this is a formal occasion, and I know that diplomats think I should say that we have productive meetings. Well, we did. (Laughter.) We did have productive meetings. And the truth is, Mr. President and I had a great time. I thought about why, and I decided that maybe it's because we are both from the South. (Laughter.) Me from South America and President Clinton from Arkansas. And of course we were both elected President at the age of 44.

Now, Mr. President, you have been in office for nearly seven years. I have been President for less than three months. But in our discussions on this trip and earlier, I find a common spirit and a common cause. I believe that even seemingly intractable problems can be solved by strength and courage.

I resolve to build a new global economy where the powerful are just and prosperity shared, where all can use open markets to advance together while none are left behind. Together, in our meetings here, we have made progress and we have reaffirmed our great goal: a hemisphere which is both drug free and poverty free.

This is a critical time for Colombia, for the United States, and for the world economy. And I must tell you, Mr. President, that my country and others everywhere have the highest respect and the highest hopes for your leadership. We are fortunate that in you the man matches the moment. At a global economy turning point, the world needs your nation. And, Mr. President, we need your vision and strength now more than ever. (Applause.)

For us in Colombia, this moment in history is especially important. For us, the issue is not only the international economy but the integrity and soul of our nation. I became President on a pledge of change. After nearly 40 years of armed internal strife, we are determined to make peace. After too many years of being devastated by drugs and the violence it brings, we are determined to win the war on drugs. After too many decades of economic want, we are determined to lift the standard of life for all our people.

This is our new opportunity and our enduring challenge. As your predecessor President Kennedy said on his memorable visit to Bogota in 1961, a man is not really free if he doesn't have a roof over his head or if he cannot educate his children or if he cannot find work or security in old age.

We are resolved to send the next generation of our young to school and not to war. Here with us tonight is my friend Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- (applause) -- our Nobel laureate, who has given me and our country his solemn pledge to devote himself to the cause of education for all the children of Colombia. Also with us this evening is another friend, Fernando Botero, who has given so much through his art, not only to his home town of Medellin and the violence-stricken province of Antioquia, but also to his country and to the world.

In that spirit I say to each of you here, let us stand side by side for peace and human rights, and against drugs, in a tireless pursuit of prosperity for our hemisphere, our nations, and all our peoples. Let us end all conflicts, close down the drug supply and the drug demand, open up trade and investment, teach our children, and raise up the horizons of our future.

And let me say, Mr. President, one other thing tonight, which echoes one of my most vivid memories as a young boy in 1962, and which will be the world's wish tomorrow morning: Godspeed, John Glenn. (Applause.)

Finally, in so many ways in these years, President Clinton, you have shown the world a new and better way. You are admired from South Africa to South America. In Europe your new approach, your belief that progress is practical, not ideological, is a model for a new generation of leaders that has come to power. You are the peacemaker of this generation. You have become my friend, and you are Colombia's friend.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me raise my glass on behalf of the people of Colombia and offer a toast to the President of the United States.

(A toast was offered.)


END 9:04 P.M. EST