Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1980-1981

Author: Jimmy Carter  | Date: May 19, 1980

Friendship Force
Remarks at a Reception for South American Participants in the Program.
May 19, 1980

First of all, let me express my thanks to the First Lady for that very wonderful introduction. I’m always the second on the program when she is present, but I always enjoy it, because she has been so remarkably in the lead in setting up the Friendship Force, which I believe, from a historical perspective in the future, will be looked upon as one of the great new ideas that has been benefiting our Nation during this period of our lives.

We’ve had more than 30,000 people who have left our country and come from other countries to stay in private homes-in the homes of schoolteachers and firemen and engineers and laborers, farmers-just to learn about one another and to become not temporary friends, but lifetime friends, and have been about 70,000 others who have been in host families who’ve received these visitors from foreign countries. The government puts no money into it, which is particularly attractive to someone trying to balance the budget. [Laughter] But there is a benefit to all governments who are eager for peace and understanding and good will between countries.

In 1972 I was Governor of the State of Georgia, and Rosalynn and I went on atrip to Mexico, to Colombia, to Brazil, to Argentina, to Costa Rica. And in every country that we visited, we saw the friendship and the eagerness to know more about the people in North America, the United States.

I made a special friend, Dr. Pereira Lopez, a truly remarkable man. I can’t say that he’s typical of those we met, because he’s special. He’s a medical doctor, he’s one of the leading industrialists of Brazil, he was the president of the Brazilian Congress when I was there. He had a magnificent reception for me in the yard of the home of the Brazilian Congress president, overlooking a beautiful lake.

I remember he asked me to hold hands with the members of the Congress, and we had a prayer. And he’s a man who has helped his own local region, Sao Carlos; one of the founders of a major university there. When I visited the Congress in Brasilia, he let me meet with and speak to the committee on foreign relations and let us feel at home when we could have been embarrassed as just strangers or tourists in a foreign country.

We had a chance to stop in Belem, in Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, which became our sister state. We went to Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, to Americana, to Manaus. And I think one of the most remarkable experiences of my life was to travel not too far from Sao Paulo to a town called Americana, where we visited a community that had been established by Americans who left here after the War Between the States and established a new home in Brazil. They still spoke English, the right kind of English—with a good southern accent. [Laughter] And there were Carters and Johnsons and Weisners and Smiths, and they still loved this country, but they loved Brazil as their home. And those ties that bound them together were very strong ones, and now the ties that bind Colombia and Brazil to our country are just as strong because of personal friendships.

So, as President of a great nation, I want to express my thanks to you who’ve come here from Colombia and from Brazil, two great nations, and say that you have a responsibility along with me and other government officials to find the common ground on which we can stand to build a better life for all based on friendship and love, one for another.

Thank you for being here. Vaya con Dios. [May God be with you.]

NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 8:45 p.m. in the Pan American Union Building.