Frederico Laredo Bru gave this speech at the second meeting of the Foreign Ministers at Havana in 1940.
Excellencies, for the second time the unusual responsibility that places in your worthy hands the destiny of twenty -- one nations entreats you urgently to put solemnly into words the anxious but firm will of free America.
The first [Pan-American consultative] meeting, held in Panama following the agreements of Buenos Aires and Lima, was an important landmark in inter-American relations. The records of that conference bear witness that the momentous agreements, strengthened by continental friendship, binding us to each other and maintaining our countries in their traditional adherence to laws and rules, have given life and success to their democratic institutions, and, even now in the midst of disconcerting events, make our relations with other countries peaceful, decent and respectable.
This time you have elected to meet in Havana, capital of one of the last republics to constitute itself in this hemisphere, but one which never was remiss in asserting characteristically American ideals, based on liberty, peace and international justice. These very same ideals inspired the heroic decisions and immortal exploits of our illustrious men -- companions of Washington, Bolivar, Hidalgo, San Martin, Sucre, Artigas, Petio and Duarte among others -- who fought indefatigably to the end for the independence of the Cuban people.
Certainly, this great assembly does not evoke the historical memories lent to your first meeting in Panama by the fact that that occurred in the legendary city where was held the very first conference of American countries, called by Simon Bolivar to resist the designs of foreign regimes anxious to re-establish their lordship over these lands, where, eventually, right would triumph.
But if in Havana you do not find an opportunity for such prestigious recollection, you will find at least a people the apostles of whose political faith exerted themselves to stress the necessity of promoting international common feeling; a people whose independence was kneaded not only by the blood of its sons but also by the blood and the encouragements of other continental peoples.
Marti was one of the forerunners of this movement, and this sentence of his was fittingly selected by his countrymen to be engraved on the bronze fence encircling the Tree of American Fraternity: "It is the hour of recounting and the united march and we must go forward in closed formation, like the silver ore in the base of the Andes."
America is constituted by States of similar political organization hatched in the warmth of the same afflictions. Its analogous enthusiasms had created, by living together in a sympathetic neighborhood, an atmosphere of fraternal regionalisms which would have permitted our hemisphere to keep itself within its geographical unity and its peaceful traditions, away from conflicts not directly affecting it. We lived decorously in peace, and aimed at keeping that peace. Our aspirations could not have been nobler nor our behavior more specifically transparent.
We envied nobody anything; our sole preoccupation was thriving on our democratic institutions, which we considered good enough to consolidate our well-being in safety. We endeavored to succeed in our own behalf and also to become serviceable to others. We proclaimed the worthiness of lawful acquisitions over brittle conquests by force and violence.
Unfortunately, this regime of quiescence and confidence does not seem assured of further continuance. Nobody with an honorable conscience can deny that the Western Hemisphere is entering a new life of alarms and threats. From October of last year -- the date of your former meeting -- to the present time, humanity has gone through on its march, gradually becoming dizzy and senseless, toward the destruction of whatever constituted the highest aims of civilized man.
It seems as if divine predestination forces us Americans, the heirs of Western culture, to be definitely the sole custodians of an international morale which becomes dim and deteriorates with the ruin of great peoples and the dramatic, contemptuous silence of the highest virtues, of which yesterday mankind was proud.
This sacred mission that the American continent assumes through setting itself up as trustee for the remainder of betrayed civilization -- civilization pushed to the edge of the precipice -- is the aim that reunites you today in order to defend and harbor it, relieving it from the utter rejection that might harass it to its last corners in the New World.
The dangers, you know well, Excellencies, increase day by day, and our America will be lucky if, due to its miraculous isolation, it can continue to avoid profound reactions to the distressing events we are living through. The fiendish fate which has befallen scientific instruments created by human wisdom for friendlier, more effective intercourse between individuals and peoples turns them into a tragic admonition for our countries, which trusted that their remoteness and manifest lack of interest in illegitimate ambitions would keep them out of the roving conflict that respects no right which is weakly claimed, nor forgives the justified abstentions of those who have not made out of covetousness for another’s possessions their ideals for national aggrandizement.
Upon this bleak present reality, that nevertheless cannot, withal, cloud the hopes of daybreak in the hearts of its men of good will, America has made itself ready for a protective preparedness and for a progressive defense of its common rights, which is the only policy proper to maintain it in its own peaceful life and insure it permanent enjoyment of its own felicity.
Men from the north, the south and the center, solidly joined together and consecrated every one by the blessed equalizing religion of America, welcome! The government and people of Cuba, in stretching toward you sincerely hospitable arms, earnestly hope for the success of your diificult task.
So, while other countries may vegetate around the margins of the law of nations, trusting only in force, we Americans proceed perfectly renewed within our traditional concepts of regional independence, reciprocal consideration and fraternal solidarity: the indestructible bases of the relations of this hemisphere.
Excellencies, I have the honor to proclaim inaugurated the second meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics.