110. Memorandum of a Conversation, The White House, Washington, April 24, 19561

SUBJECT

  • Proposed Meeting of American Presidents

PARTICIPANTS

  • The President
  • Secretary General Mora of the Organization of American States2
  • Assistant Secretary Holland

The President congratulated Dr. Mora on his election as Secretary General of the Organization of American States and expressed his admiration of the work that the Organization is doing.

Dr. Mora expressed his own views as to the importance of the Organization as a means of improving relations between the American States and improving the welfare of the individual States. He also spoke of the importance of the Organization as an example to the rest of the world.

The President stated that he had been hopeful and was still hopeful that he could make a visit to Latin America, but recognized the difficulty in visiting one country without visiting others.

I said that if he was willing to visit the area an opportunity lay in the immediate future which might justify his visiting one country without visiting the entire area. That was the celebration to be held in Panama on June 25 and 26 commemorating the One-Hundred and Thirtieth Anniversary of the First Pan American Congress called by Simón Bolívar.3 I said that it would probably be easy to arrange for President Arias of Panama to issue an invitation to all American Presidents to visit Panama on these days if we could indicate to him [Page 439]in advance that President Eisenhower would probably accept the invitation.

I explained that, while the suggestion had been in my mind for several days,4 I had not had an opportunity to discuss it with Secretary Dulles, something I was sure he would want us both to do before he considered it seriously. I said I did not hesitate to raise the idea in the presence of Dr. Mora because I had every confidence in his discretion.

The President examined his calendar and said that his initial reaction was that he would like very much to visit Panama on June 25 and 26 if arrangements for an invitation to all the American Presidents could be made and if no insuperable obstacle arose. He expected to confer with Secretary Dulles later in the day and asked that I discuss the proposal with the Secretary prior to their conference.

(Immediately upon my return from the White House I reported the foregoing to the Secretary who said that he would discuss the matter further in his conference with the President later in the day. I stated that I had intended to take the proposal up with the Secretary before mentioning it to the President, but that his unexpected statement of interest in visiting Latin America had created an opportunity which, it seemed to me, should be seized.

On April 30 the Secretary authorized me to cable our Ambassador in Panama5 instructing him to state to the President of Panama6 that if the latter should see fit to invite all of the American Presidents to visit the country on June 25 and 26 to participate in ceremonies commemorating the original Pan American Congress, the Ambassador felt that the President of the United States would probably accept, particularly if a representative group of Presidents were to accept the invitation. The cable was sent through channels of another agency on that same day.)

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Administration Series, Organization of American States. Confidential. Drafted and initialed by Holland on May 25. Attached to a memorandum of May 29 from Howe, this memorandum was sent to Goodpaster for approval. The source text bears Goodpaster’s handwritten notation of May 31 stating he telephoned his approval to Howe and asked that distribution be restricted.
  2. José Antonio Mora Otero, Uruguayan statesman and diplomat, was elected in 1956 to fill the unexpired term of Carlos Dávila as Secretary General of the Organization of American States.
  3. This Congress, held in Panama June 22–July 15, 1826, was called by Simón Bolívar who was then President of Gran Colombia and Peru. He invited the Spanish American nations to meet to establish a confederation that would provide mutual security in defense of their independence. Although representatives attending the conference from Central America, Mexico, Gran Colombia, and Peru, along with unofficial representatives of Great Britain and Holland, never ratified the treaties drawn up, the Congress did establish the goal of hemispheric unity and set a precedent for subsequent meetings of Spanish American nations to solve their common problems.
  4. In a May 24 memorandum for the file, Holland explained that the idea of a Presidential visit to Latin America had first been mentioned to him by Lyon on April 16. After consulting Secretary Dulles, who obtained confirmation from the White House that the President might make a short visit there, Lyon informed Holland who discussed the possibility with the members of the ARA staff on April 21. They agreed that the commemoration of the First Pan American Congress gave the President an opportunity to meet with other inter-American presidents. After consulting the President’s brother, Milton Eisenhower, on April 22, Holland made the proposal himself to Eisenhower on April 23. (Department of State, Central Files, 362/5–2456)
  5. Julian F. Harrington.
  6. Ricardo Arias Espinosa.