Media Center



July 22, 2004 - Washington, DC

Madame Chair, on this occasion, as we commemorate the 221st anniversary of the birth of Simon Bolívar, I would like to read to you some lines from a proclamation issued 21 years ago on this same occasion for the great Liberator who laid the foundation for the inter-American system.

“The Government and people of the United States take pride in joining other countries of the Americas in celebrating this historic event. A great soldier and patriot, Simon Bolívar serves as an inspiration to all peoples of the western hemisphere. Through turbulent and frustrating times, he had the vision to see that the unity of the Americas could be achieved.

Bolívar’s military prowess made independence possible for Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Panama in a struggle similar to that which had brought the United States its liberty forty years earlier. Although shaken by personal tragedy and disappointed by two unsuccessful attempts to establish an independent republic in his homeland, Bolívar persevered. His burning desire for freedom could not be extinguished, and his subsequent brilliant military victories inspired an entire continent. Likewise, his vision of a united Americas continues to inspire new generations of citizens in every country in the hemisphere.

Bolívar’s letter from Jamaica on September 6, 1815, poignantly expressed his dream of a union ‘with a single bond that unites its parts among themselves and to the whole’. With this aim in mind, he convoked the Congress of Panama in 1826, which signaled a decisive step toward the system of cooperation we enjoy today. The treaty drawn up by that Congress was ratified by only one country, but the idea of forming a coalition of American Republics took root slowly and developed, and finally evolved into a unique and beneficial system of international cooperation.

From the seeds planted by Simon Bolívar, the Organization of American States was born. Bolívar’s ideals of Pan Americanism, based on independence, solidarity, sovereignty, as well as the right of all nations to live in peace, find clear expression in the Charter of the Organization of American States.”

No less so today than in 1983, when the late President Ronald Reagan issued this bicentennial proclamation, his words capture what Bolivar’s life and work mean to the people of my country, to this organization, and to the peoples of this hemisphere.

Bolivar remains a monumental figure for all of us in the Americas. Just as the events of his life transcended borders, today we find his powerful influence doing the same. The strength of his ideals lies in the fact that Bolivar’s ideas are not those of a single country. No, his ideals serve as the basis for the common advancement of all the hemisphere’s states and peoples.

When Bolivar convened the Congress of Panama in 1826 (to which Bolívar invited the United States), he recognized that this common advancement of the Americas is inseparable from the economic and social development of its peoples. Since then that Congress has served to inspire a hope and to encourage further development. Its influence can be seen in the Summit of the Americas process that unites our leaders in a common effort to achieve economic and social progress. It can be seen in our ten-year effort to unite the economies of the Americas into a single free trade area, which, when achieved, will be a powerful and enduring manifestation of Bolivar’s Pan-American legacy. And it can be seen in the multiplicity of inter-American meetings taking place each month, on a wide range of topics, that seek to strengthen democracy and the well-being of all people in the Hemisphere.

Let us all, therefore, take this day, on which we commemorate Simon Bolívar’s birth, as an opportunity to renew our commitment to his vision of a proud, just, united and democratic hemisphere.

Thank you, Madame Chair.