San Jose, Costa Rica (JFK+50) Fifty-two years ago today, March 18, 1963, President John F. Kennedy arrived here San Jose to attend the President's Conference, a meeting of heads of state devoted to the goals of the Alliance for Progress.
The event marked the first time a President of the United States visited Central America to confer with all the leaders of the region. President of Costa Rica, Francisco J. Orlich.* welcomed President Kennedy.
In his remarks at the airport in San Jose, JFK said:
"About 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus, after having discovered Costa Rica, turned from Panama and began his last journey home. He described this 4th voyage as the...high voyage, and I feel...that this is a high voyage for all of us who meet today in this free & democratic country."
Later in the day JFK spoke from the steps of the Ambassador Raymond Telles' home.
The President said...
"Today...we are gathered...in pursuit of...the preservation of our independence, the extension of freedom, and the elevation of the welfare of our citizens to a level as high as 'from our resources' we can attain."
JFK went on to review some of the accomplishments of the Alliance. He spoke of the "almost 3000 new classrooms" that had been built and "almost a million new books" which had been distributed. The President also said that "7600 new homes will have been built during this 2 year period" but added "much more remains to be done."
Still later, JFK proposed a toast at a dinner given in his honor at the Presidential Palace.
President Kennedy said...
"I hope that members of the United States will join me in drinking (a toast) to the people of Central America and Panama, and to the very good health of our friends, the Presidents, who have stood with the United States in the cause of freedom..."
President Kennedy would remain in Costa Rica for the duration of the conference which continued the next day. JFK departed Costa Rica on March 20, 1963 arriving at the White House in the evening.
Francisco J. Orlich (1907-1969) was born in San Ramon, Costa Rica. He was mayor of the city, commander of the National Liberation Army & Supreme Commander of the armed forces of Costa Rica before being elected President. He served from 1962-1966.
"Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, John F. Kennedy, January 1, to November 22, 1963." United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1964.