The United States shares a commitment with
its Western Hemisphere neighbors to build a hemisphere “that
lives in liberty, trades in freedom, and grows in prosperity,"
says President Bush.
President George W. Bush delivers remarks at the
opening of the Organization of American States
General Assembly in Ft Lauderdale, Florida, Monday,
June 6, 2005. (White House photo by Eric Draper)
Speaking June 6 to the 35th General Assembly
of the Organization of American States (OAS) meeting in
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the president hailed the region's
democratic gains of recent decades, but warned that such
progress "must not be taken for granted." Although
"the path to a free and prosperous society is long
and not always smooth," he said, "the old and
new democracies of the Americas share a common interest
in showing every citizen of our hemisphere that freedom
brings not just peace -- it brings a better life for themselves
and their families."
Leaders must demonstrate "that democracy
delivers more than just promises," because citizens
"need to see in their daily lives that their hard work
and enterprises are rewarded," Bush explained. "They
need to see that in a democratic society, people can walk
in the streets in safety, corruption is punished, and all
citizens are equal before the law."
The United States "believes it has
an obligation to help build this better tomorrow for all
the citizens" of the region, Bush added.
In his remarks to the three-day OAS General
Assembly, which closes June 7, Bush cited the Inter-American
Democratic Charter as a potent symbol of the region's progress.
That charter, adopted by the OAS in September 2001, states
that the people of the Americas have a right to democratic
governance and that the region's governments are obligated
to defend and promote democracy.
Bush said that in the "new Americas"
of the 21st century, democracy is now the rule rather than
the exception. In 1974, the last time the General Assembly
met in the United States (in Atlanta), fewer than half of
the OAS membership had democratically elected governments.
But today, the president said, the 34 countries
participating in the OAS assembly have democratic constitutional
Bush added that in the new Americas, bringing
a better life to the region's people requires choosing between
two competing visions: one that offers hope, and another
that rolls back the democratic progress of the past two
decades by playing on fear.
"The choices we make will determine
which vision will define the Americas our children inherit,"
said the president.
Following is a transcript of Bush's remarks:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
June 6, 2005
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE OPENING
OF THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
11:50 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much.
Welcome to the United States. Thanks for having me. Madam
Secretary, thank you for your service; thank you for your
friendship; thank you for your short introduction. (Laughter.)
Ambassador Maisto, members of the United
States Congress -- four members, by the way, of the Florida
delegation have joined us today, and I'm grateful that they
have come. Secretary General Insulza, thank you; congratulations.
Thank you for coming by the Oval Office the other day to
give me a briefing. Assistant Secretary General, thank you,
sir; it's good to see you again. Distinguished visitors
and guests. I'm honored to be here at this meeting of the
Organization of American States.
The ties that bind the Americas are particularly
vivid here in Florida. I mean, if you spend any time in
this state, you'll find people from all over our hemisphere
who live here. This state has benefited because immigrants
from throughout the hemisphere have made their homes here.
I know firsthand -- I'm pretty familiar with the state's
governor. (Laughter.) He keeps me abreast of what's taking
place in this state.
You know, our ties are represented in different
ways. Perhaps you know this, but my brother was lucky enough
to marry a fantastic woman from Mexico; the First Lady of
Florida is Mexican-born. A United States Senator from Florida,
Mel Martinez, was born in Cuba. No, the ties in our hemisphere
between America and our hemisphere are particularly strong
in Florida. It's a perfect place to have the meeting. Thank
you for choosing Florida.
As I look out at the distinguished foreign
ministers, I find we have much in common. We're the children
of the New World, founded in empire and fulfilled in independence.
Our people are united by history and geography. And the
United States shares a commitment with you to build an Americas
that lives in liberty, trades in freedom, and grows in prosperity.
We come together at a great moment in history,
when freedom is on the march around our world. In the last
year-and-a-half -- think about this -- we've witnessed a
Rose Revolution in Georgia, an Orange Revolution in Ukraine,
a Purple Revolution in Iraq, a Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan,
a Cedar Revolution in Lebanon -- and these are just the
beginnings. Across Central Asia, hope is stirring at the
prospect of change -- and change will come. Across the broader
Middle East, we are seeing the rise of a new generation
whose hearts burn for freedom -- and they will have it.
This love of liberty has long roots in our
own hemisphere. Not long after the United States won its
independence from Britain, patriots throughout the Americas
were inspired to take their own stand. One of them was an
Argentine general named Jose de San Martin. During the struggle
for independence from Spain, the general declared, "In
the last corner of the earth that I might find myself, I
will be ready to sacrifice my existence for liberty."
San Martin's dream of liberty has found
a home in the Organization of American States. This organization's
founding documents calls the Americas to its "historic
mission to offer to man a land of liberty, and a favorable
environment for the realization of his just aspirations."
That mission was given its clear direction in the Inter-American
Democratic Charter declaring that "the peoples of the
Americas have a right to democracy and their governments
have an obligation to promote it and defend it." And
today what was once a distant dream is now within our reach:
an Americas wholly free and democratic and at peace with
ourselves and our neighbors.
In the new Americas of the 21st century,
democracy is now the rule, rather than the exception. Think
of the dramatic changes we have seen in our lifetime. In
1974, the last time the OAS General Assembly met in the
United States, fewer than half its members had democratically
elected governments. Today, all 34 countries participating
in this General Assembly have democratic, constitutional
governments. Only one country in this hemisphere sits outside
this society of democratic nations -- and one day the tide
of freedom will reach Cuba's shores, as well. (Applause.)
The great Cuban patriot Jose Marti said it best: La libertad
no es negociable.
The dramatic gains for democracy we have
witnessed in our hemisphere must not be taken for granted.
Democratic change and free elections are exhilarating events.
Yet we know from experience they can be followed by moments
of uncertainty. When people risk everything to vote, it
can raise expectations that their lives will improve immediately
-- but history teaches us that the path to a free and prosperous
society is long and not always smooth. Each nation must
follow its own course, according to its own history. Yet
the old and new democracies of the Americas share a common
interest in showing every citizen of our hemisphere that
freedom brings not just peace -- it brings a better life
for themselves and their families.
In the new Americas of the 21st century,
bringing a better life to our people requires choosing between
two competing visions. One offers a vision of hope -- it
is founded on representative government, integration into
the world markets, and a faith in the transformative power
of freedom in individual lives. The other seeks to roll
back the democratic progress of the past two decades by
playing to fear, pitting neighbor against neighbor, and
blaming others for their own failures to provide for their
people. The choices we make will determine which vision
will define the Americas our children inherit -- we must
make tough decisions today to ensure a better tomorrow.
To give our children a better tomorrow,
our citizens must see that democracy delivers more than
promises. They need to see in their daily lives that their
hard work and enterprises are rewarded. They need to see
that in a democratic society, people can walk in the streets
in safety, corruption is punished, and all citizens are
equal before the law. And when the people of the Americas
see that opportunity and social mobility are real, they
will know that in a free and democratic society, the only
limit to how far they can go is the size of their dreams.
The United States believes it has an obligation
to help build this better tomorrow for all the citizens.
Working with our partners in the region, my government has
helped the leaders of this hemisphere meet our goal of delivering
treatment to 600,000 HIV sufferers across the region. In
2002, the United States launched the Millennium Challenge
Account to help poor nations and to revolutionize the concept
of development aid. My administration's approach is based
on the common sense idea that development aid works best
in countries that are proving their commitment to govern
justly, to invest in their citizens, and to open up their
economies. Under this program, aid will go to those who
deliver results for their people.
Next week, Honduras will become the second
country to sign a Millennium Challenge compact -- for a
$215 million program that will help Honduran farmers grow
better crops, as well as money to build highways that will
open markets for them around the region and the world.
To advance economic development in the Americas,
the U.S. government already makes about $5 billion in loans
and grants to the region throughout [sic] the Ex-Im Bank,
the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Trade
and Development Agency. In preparation for the Summit of
the Americas later this year in Argentina, my administration
will be looking for new ways to prime the real engines of
hope in the Americas: its small businesses and private enterprises
and entrepreneurs. When people throughout the Americas see
their lives improve and opportunity more abundant, their
faith in democracy will grow and our hemisphere will be
In the new Americas of the 21st century,
one of the surest ways to make opportunity real for all
our citizens is by opening our doors to trade. My government
is pursuing this goal at all levels: at the global level
through the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization,
at the regional level through Free Trade Area of the Americas,
and at the bilateral level with Free Trade Agreements with
individual countries like Chile and Mexico and Canada. And
the United States Congress is now considering the Central
American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, which
offers an historic opportunity to bring prosperity to the
citizens of our hemisphere who have not known it.
For the young democracies of Central America,
CAFTA would bring new investment, and that means good jobs
and higher labor standards for their workers. In these nations,
wealthier citizens already enjoy access to goods and services
produced abroad. By reducing tariffs on U.S. goods, all
consumers in these countries will enjoy better goods at
lower prices. These lower prices will also give Central
American small businesses and farmers and entrepreneurs
less costly access to U.S. machinery and equipment which
will make them more competitive and help their economies
grow. By bringing economic growth to Central America, CAFTA
will contribute to the rise of a vibrant middle class. And
that makes us reach a step closer to our goal -- a goal
of the Americas where the opportunities in San Jose, Costa
Rica, are as real as they are in San Jose, California.
For U.S. farmers and businesses and workers,
CAFTA would expand opportunity by creating a more level
playing field for our goods and services. Under existing
rules, most of Central America's exports already enter the
United States duty-free -- but U.S. exports still face hefty
tariffs. By passing CAFTA, the United States would open
up a market of 44 million consumers for our farmers and
small business people. CAFTA will replace a system that
is often arbitrary with one that is fair and transparent
and based on common rules.
For the Western Hemisphere, CAFTA would
continue to advance the stability and security that come
from freedom. An Americas linked by trade is less likely
to be divided by resentment and false ideologies. An Americas
where all our people live in prosperity will be more peaceful.
And an Americas whose countries have reduced the barriers
to trade among ourselves will be a more competitive region
in a global economy.
CAFTA is more than just a trade agreement.
It is a signal of the U.S. commitment to democracy and prosperity
for our neighbors -- and I urge the United States Congress
to pass it. (Applause.)
In the last half-century, the nations of
the Americas have overcome enormous challenges: colonialism
and communism and military dictatorship. At the start of
this new century, these divisions have fallen away, and
now we have it within our means to eliminate the scourge
of poverty from our hemisphere. In this room we still represent
many different countries with different traditions and different
mother tongues -- but today we can say with pride that we
all speak the common language of liberty. And by making
the blessings of freedom real in our hemisphere, we will
set a shining example for all the world.
Thank you for letting me come by. Que Dios
los bendiga; may God bless you all. (Applause.)
END -- 12:03 P.M. EDT