Remarks at a Reception for the Heads of Delegations to the 39th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, New York

September 23, 1984

Thank you all for being here. On behalf of my fellow citizens, it's a pleasure once again to welcome all of you to the United States.

As we gather for this, the 39th session of the United Nations General Assembly, we look forward to the upcoming 40th anniversary. It'll be commemorated by a series of events across the United States.

Much has been achieved in these last 39 years. Working together, through this institution, the governments of the world have made great efforts toward peace and improving the well-being of their peoples. But we also remain mindful of the failures we've witnessed of the world community to live up to the commitments in the charter. Some of the trends have been particularly discouraging in recent years.

The basic principles of the U.N., nonetheless, remain as worthy and as vital now as they were 39 years ago. Working together, the family of nations can, and must, improve its efforts to combat international lawlessness and to promote freedom, humane values, and social and economic progress.

For our part, we in the United States still hold firm to the belief that within the structure of this institution we can improve the chances for peace on this planet. And whether we succeed in doing so is not dependent on luck or on any inevitable pattern of history. We have it within our power to make history; let's not be afraid to do so.

We should never fear to attempt to do that which the pessimists call impossible. Let us be optimistic about the potential for peace, and let us never, never be afraid to speak with one another.

In this era of electronic communications and high-tech wizardry, time and distance can no longer impede constructive dialog. Only people can do that. So, let us on the eve of a new U.N. General Assembly pledge again to one another, in the names of our peoples and for the good of all humankind, that we will continue to seek the kind of open and frank discussion which will help us to create a safer world.

This does not minimize the serious challenges and tangible differences that exist within our world body politic. Those differences are real and will require hard work and a large dose of good will to overcome. Yet there is reason for optimism. My country will not shirk the hard work or ration its good will in our effort to deal with differences peacefully. And we call upon other nations to make the same commitment.

For example, the United States wants nothing less than a realistic, constructive, long-term relationship with the Soviet Union, a relationship which would permit each of us to reduce, not increase, the number of our weapons, especially those nuclear weapons which threaten all humanity.

The ultimate goals of the United States are not so different now as 150 years ago when Andrew Jackson was President. Jackson said, ``Peace and friendly intercourse with all nations are as much the desire of our government as they are the interest of the people.'' In a time of nuclear bombs and overwhelmingly expensive weapons, President Jackson's words ring even more true today.

The United States, as I will detail in my remarks tomorrow, is moving with renewed confidence and vigor in the arena of international affairs. We endeavor to further the prospects for peace, prosperity, and democracy -- goals reflecting the desire and interest of our people.

I'll be stressing our commitment to these goals throughout this week, starting already in meetings with heads of state and government today, and in my speaking tomorrow to the General Assembly, and on Tuesday to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and with a number of other world leaders back in Washington.

This intense diplomatic activity complements your own diplomatic efforts. The United States will continue, through our much admired Ambassador, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and others, to be firm in advancing our interest and forceful in the advocacy of our democratic way of life. We will at the same time remain fair in approaching the interests of others. We expect nothing less of you. You should expect nothing less of us.

The United States will continue to work in the United Nations to promote peace and international security, reconciliation among nations, economic prosperity, human rights, and the rule of law. Our own commitment to the goals of the charter remain steadfast.

One of the advantages of having the United Nations in our country is an advantage for us in that it gives you a chance to better understand the American people. And when you return to your countries, I hope you'll convey to them our best wishes. I wish you all success in your upcoming session, appreciate, again, your joining us here tonight, and just thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 7:09 p.m. at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The reception was hosted by the United States for heads of state, foreign ministers, and heads of delegations to the United Nations session. Following the reception, the President returned to his suite at the hotel.