120. Diary Entry by the President1
So far as I am concerned, the meeting just concluded at Panama gave me a chance to pay my respects, in a single conference, to each of the Republics lying to the south of us. From time to time I had entertained the idea of a tour of that region, but all such plans were always wrecked on the obstacle of time. No President could ever leave the country for a sufficient length of time to pay a meaningful visit to each of twenty countries.
The opportunity to make the trip came about in a rather odd way. A new Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Senor Mora, was appointed and promptly requested permission to come to my office to pay his respects. He was accompanied by Mr. Holland.2 During the conversation at my desk, he told about the forthcoming meeting in Panama in celebration of the 130th anniversary of the signing of the Bolivar Agreement. He happened to remark, “It would be wonderful if you personally could come.” I instantly replied that if other heads of state would show any interest in the matter, I thought I could come.
When the idea was suggested to the President of Panama, he picked it up and issued invitations to the heads of state and we were soon assured that most of the heads of state would attend.
The date of the meeting was June 20th, but when I was taken sick and had to undergo an operation, the other Presidents agreed to postpone the meeting in the hope that I could come later.
It was a great success from the standpoint of public relations. Each of the Presidents that I met seemed to consider my visit to Panama practically as a personal visit to his particular country. It had, of course, been my hope to inspire this feeling. Press stories from some of these countries more or less reflected the same view.
The official parts of the meeting were completed within two days. I stayed over a third day because so many of the other Presidents had asked permission to make a personal call on me at the American Embassy. I had an opportunity either that day or the evening before to talk privately to each, with the exception of the President of Uruguay.
As individuals I thought the President of Paraguay (Stroessner) and Nicaragua (Somoza) stood out. I was also quite taken with old General Ibanez of Chile. Kubitschek of Brazil is smart, quick, but I am a little uncertain as to his stamina if he gets into a real battle.[Page 453]
All in all, I would class the meeting as a very successful affair in the promotion of good will.