Remarks to Citizens in St. George's, Grenada
February 20, 1986
Thank you very much, Prime Minister Blaize, Governor-General Scoon, distinguished Prime Ministers, and my dear Grenadian friends. I bring you the good will and affection of the people of the United States. It is my honor to be on this platform with these Caribbean leaders. We stand before you as friends who share a fundamental belief in democracy. Our commitment to humane and representative government is stronger than any tyrant's chains. And I'm certain that my colleagues approve when I say to you, we are grateful to God, today, that Grenada is once again safely within the ranks of free nations.
There is a freedom tide rising in our hemisphere. Your Prime Minister and these other elected leaders are testimony that the spirit of democracy is assuming its rightful role as the great unifier of the people. Democracy is based on respect for the rights and dignity of every person, whatever his or her station in life. In the last century, a champion of Grenadian independence, William Galway Donovan, put it well when he wrote, ``A naked freedman is a nobler object than a gorgeous slave.''
Now, in a sense, and I mean this in a kind of geographical sense, we are in a way all Americans in this hemisphere -- from the North Slope of Alaska to the tip of South America, these are known as the Americas -- and it's our birthright to live in freedom. It is our heritage. In this quest we stand together, and we shall always stand together. Just in the last 5 years, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, Honduras, Bolivia, Uruguay, El Salvador, and, yes, Grenada have returned to democracy. Today 27 of 33 independent countries, countries with 90 percent of this hemisphere's population, are democratic or in transition to democracy. And we won't be satisfied until all the people of the Americas have joined us in the warm sunshine of liberty and justice.
In free societies, government exists for the sake of the people, not the other way around. Government is not directed by the whims of any dictator or the mandate of any clique but by the good sense of the people through a democratic vote. In free societies, people do not live in fear. They never worry that criticizing the government will lead to a late knock on the door, an arrest by some goon squad. When people are free, their rights to speak and to pray are protected by law. And the goons are not running the jails; they're in the jails. In a free society, neighbors don't spy on neighbors; neighbors help neighbors. And that's the way God meant it to be.
As we rejoice in your new, renewed freedom, let us not forget that there are still those who will do everything in their power to impose Communist dictatorship on the rest of us. Castro's tyranny still weighs heavy on the shoulders of his people and threatens the peace and freedom of this hemisphere. Doing the bidding of his faraway master, he has shipped Cuba's young men by the thousands to fight and die in faraway lands. When one recalls the tons of military equipment that were captured here, we can thank God things were changed before young Grenadians, too, were sent off to fight and die for an allied [alien] ideology.
From the first days of my Presidency, I was aware of the growing trouble here in Grenada. We were worried about you and what appeared to be an attempt to turn your island into a staging area for subversion and aggression. I can still remember being awakened early in the morning and told that six members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, joined by Jamaica and Barbados, had sent an urgent request that we join them in an effort to protect lives and to restore order and democracy to your country. There were some 800 students from the United States whose lives were in danger. And there were more than 90,000 of you -- Grenadians, friends, and neighbors -- who were living in fear of never again regaining your freedom. Well, ladies and gentlemen, my dear friends, I will never be sorry that I made the decision to help you, and I made it before the Sun came up.
There is a story, perhaps it's a legend, that in 1933 a group of young boys were in a swimming race across your harbor. And in the midst of the race, according to the story, to the horror of the crowd that watched, a shark appeared and surfaced directly under one young swimmer. For a few terrorizing minutes, the boy was carried on the back of the shark until the shark hit a wharf, and the boy was knocked to safety and pulled out of the water by his friends and neighbors. Well, dear people of Grenada, for a time it appeared that you were like that boy riding on the back of a shark. Your friends held their breath hoping and praying for you. And it was our honor to help you get off the shark. And we're -- all of us up here -- we're just glad we got here before it was time for his supper.
Today in Nicaragua we see a chain of events similar to what happened here. We hear the same excuses made for the Communists, while the people of Nicaragua sell [see] their freedom slowly but surely eaten away. Edmund Burke, a British parliamentarian who championed the cause of American independence, once wrote, ``When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one . . . .'' Well, those words still ring true. That's why we came to your aid. And that is why the United States must help those struggling for freedom in Nicaragua. In the cause of liberty, all free people are part of the same family. We should stand together as brothers and sisters. And if we do, the Nicaraguan people will be able to free themselves from Communist tyranny and win the liberty that you now enjoy in Grenada.
There are those, of course, who claim we must give up freedom in exchange for economic progress. Well, pardon me, but anyone trying to sell you that line is no better than a three-card-trick man. One thing becoming more clear every day is that freedom and progress go hand in hand. Throughout the developing world, people are rejecting socialism because they see that it doesn't empower people, it impoverishes them. In Cuba, Castro has turned a once thriving economy into a basket case. Lately, he's taken to haranguing his people, blaming them for the failures of his dictatorship.
I think it's time that we, the United States and the Caribbean nations working together, showed Castro and his gang how it's done. The foundation is already being laid. I had a conversation with Prime Minister Blaize a few months ago, and he asked if it were possible for the United States to extend more scholarships to Caribbean students. Well, Prime Minister Blaize, I'm proud to announce today that over this year and the next two, we will roughly triple the funding for our training and education programs for the Caribbean. Our goal is to train 1,500 students from these islands each year. And when these young people finish their education and training, we want to make certain that a growing, healthy economy is ready for them. Two years ago, we put in place the Caribbean Basin Initiative, aimed at spurring growth and investment in the Caribbean. The progress resulting from our efforts has been slow but steady. But nothing good happens fast. It takes patience. It takes work on everyone's part.
Prime Minister Seaga [of Jamaica] has urged expanding the provisions of the CBI to permit greater access for Caribbean textiles in the U.S. market. This, he has said, would be a giant step for job creation throughout the Caribbean. Well, I'm proud to announce today a special program that will guarantee access to the U.S. market for Caribbean-produced clothing made from cloth woven and cut in the United States. This will be good for the U.S. textile industry, but it will mean jobs for the people of the Caribbean.
And there's something else brewing that will be a big boost to the people of the Caribbean. Our Congress is considering a change in the tax code to permit funds in Puerto Rico's Development Bank to be used for investment loans elsewhere in the Caribbean. This proposal, worked out with Governor Hernandez Colon of Puerto Rico, has my endorsement and bipartisan support in our Congress. The Governor has spearheaded a drive to persuade United States firms in Puerto Rico to invest in plants in other parts of the Caribbean. And he is committed to the ambitious goal of $100 million in new investment into Caribbean Basin countries each year. Now, three major U.S. firms have already announced plans to place projects here in Grenada, and other projects are moving forward elsewhere in the Caribbean. The tax provisions being considered by Congress are tied to the success of this investment program. We applaud Puerto Rico's contribution and urge congressional approval.
Finally, I would like to announce that the United States will be undertaking, in conjunction with Caribbean governments, a 5-year, $5.5 million program to help support the free and independent judicial systems of the Caribbean islands -- recognized around the world as a pillar of your democratic traditions.
I'd like to take a moment to commend some people who are doing a terrific job in fostering the spirit of freedom and opportunity that I've been talking about -- our Peace Corps volunteers and our Agency for International Development personnel. AID has been working on everything from repairing your roads and water system to finishing up your new airport. Now, of course, it will be used to bring tourists and businessmen, instead of bombers and spy planes. Tourists are nicer, and they're a lot more fun.
The good will between our peoples can also be seen in the many private sector initiatives started here since the liberation. Having been in the film business, I am excited that the Discovery Foundation has provided the equipment and helped you set up a new television station. I -- thinking back to my past, I may have a few old movies around. Do you think anyone around here would like to see them? [Laughter] There are many wonderful people-to-people projects that we could talk about. One of the most heartwarming is Project HOPE. The vast majority of those serving are volunteers, professionals who work hard at their regular jobs and then, in their time off, donate medical- and health-related services to you -- truly out of the goodness of their hearts. These and other volunteers in the Caribbean make all of us back home very proud.
And a word of advice for my good friends. Whether the CBI succeeds and the economies of the Caribbean nations prosper depends as much on what you do as on what we do. High taxes, overrregulation, artificially high exchange rates, and bureaucratic red tape kill enterprise and hope for the future. And I know that your Prime Minister feels the same way. There is much that should be done in these areas by Caribbean countries to put their economic house in order. Needless to say, what you do to reform your systems and to create the environment for jobs and progress is up to you. That's the democratic challenge. But remember, whatever you do, the people of the United States are on your side. We want you to succeed and to prosper. Personally, after talking with these leaders and meeting you today, I am optimistic. What problems you have can and will be solved. In the not too distant future, I see businessmen flocking to the Caribbean. When they do, they will find a bounty of opportunity. They'll find honest, hard-working people, happy and warm people. And they will find democratic government. That has to be a formula for good times.
And as I look around today, I know that St. George's has been a location for many a ``jump up.'' And believe me, I will remember this one. I also know that Queen's Park was the location of a command post during the liberation 2\1/2\ years ago. The people of the United States sent our young men, our courageous soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen, to protect our own and to save a neighbor in distress. Nineteen of our sons died here; many were wounded. Our brave lads risked all because they believed in those ideals that we've spoken about today: justice, freedom, and opportunity. Let us pledge that their sacrifice was not made in vain. Let us recapture the joyous spirit of liberty that is truly the dream of all the Americans and spend it throughout this hemisphere -- spread it, I should say, not spend it. That is what our fallen heroes would have wanted.
I can't tell you how moved I have been, from the first of you who waved a greeting to me since we've been here and now those of you who we see here. I couldn't feel closer to anyone at this moment than I do to you. And I'm going to take the message back to those Americans back home who aren't here and tell them where we've got an awful lot of good friends. Thank you all, and God bless you. Thank you.
Note: The President spoke at 4:55 p.m. at Queen's Park. He was introduced by Prime Minister Herbert Blaize. Following his remarks, the President returned to Washington, DC.