Pan American Day - The Meaning of Pan Americanism

Presentation to San Antonio Table, Pan American Round Tables of Texas

April 14, 2000 - La Scala Restaurant - Audreyjane Castro

The essence of Pan Americanism is in the prefix "pan" which derives from a Greek word meaning all. Placed in front of Americanism, Pan implies a union of all the nations of the Americas. Or, taken down even further, it suggests a joining of all the peoples of these nations for a common goal, which is the pursuit of friendship and goodwill.

It isn't difficult to see the need for such a concept. When Simon Bolivar freed the peoples of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, he was joined in the battle of upper Peru by his comrade Jose San Martin. United without ego and for liberation of their peoples, these two generals ended Spanish domination in 1826. The area was named Bolivia to honor Bolivar.

The European monarchies feared the end of their domination in the Americas. Spain and her sister European countries planned a movement to once again bring South America under their rule. Far to the north, however, United States President James Monroe intervened with his Monroe Doctrine. His proclamation virtually ended the European threat and all nations in the Americas were joined together by their common defense for freedom.

Conflict remained a part of Pan Americanism through the ensuing years, but always conflict to ensure freedom. Benito Juarez in Mexico and Abraham Lincoln in the United States were two of the leaders who typified the Pan American effort. Both were born poor, and both rose to the head of their individual nations. Both sought freedom and equality for all men.

In 1890, the role of Pan Americanism turned from using conflict to ensure freedom to seeking more peaceful means to achieve the same goal. The first Pan American Conference was held in Washington, DC that year. Its purpose was to preserve peace among the Americas.

The Pan American Union was established out of this conference in 1910. It devoted itself to promoting friendship and cooperative action in the Americas. In 1930, it succeeded in having April 14 named Pan American Day to celebrate this united effort throughout the Western Hemisphere.

The Pan American effort changed government as well. President Franklin D. Roosevelt brought 21 Western Hemisphere nations together in 1948 in what today is called the Organization of American States (OAS). Friendship among American nations has been a cornerstone of every presidential policy since. Today there are 35 member nations in the OAS.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy, in an address from the White House commemorating the birth of Pan Americanism, delineated the challenges and dangers still facing the nations of the Americas and called for the formation of a new Alliance for Progress--Alianza para el Progreso--to address the basic needs of all peoples for homes, work and land, health and schools--techo, trabajo y tierra, salud y escuela.

Today, 39 years later, we still strive to meet those needs.

In a recent speech, OAS secretary-general Cesar Gaviria, (former president of Colombia), enumerated the crucial issues facing our Western Hemisphere nations--democracy, human rights, trade, poverty, drugs, corruption, education, security and land mines. Nothing seems to have changed. We have just added "land mines" to the list!

The battle against these enduring challenges and, indeed, evils is never-ending. The Summit of the Americas, held first in Miami in 1994 and, more recently, in Santiago, Chile, in 1998, is the vehicle of the OAS leading the charge. It can be said that the lasting legacy of Pan Americanism is a peaceful solution to understanding one another whether we be from Canada, Mexico, the United States, Argentina, Peru, Brazil or any of the other members of this Hemisphere. Pan Americanism is a vehicle through which we can speak to one another, where we can resolve differences and solidify strengths, and where we can promote friendship and goodwill for the next millennium.

And what does all of this mean to us? What special significance does the history of Pan Americanism hold for us as members of the Pan American Round Tables? We all know the answer. But, the observance of Pan American Day provides an occasion to refresh our memories.

In 1916, our founder, Florence Terry Griswold, drew on the philosophy and the mission of Pan Americanism to create the Pan American Round Table movement. She saw, in her own words, " a need to cement a close and everlasting friendship with the women of the Western Hemisphere."

I quote from an article written in April 1938, by PART member Mary Saint Albans--"In those hectic days of 1916-1917 when Mexico was in the throes of rewriting her ideology and reconstructing her form of government, while the United States scowled and blustered and blundered, it took courage to create an organization whose object was mutual friendliness instead of the customary aloofness and scorn." Mrs. Griswold explained how and why she conceived of such an organization--"Everyone asked something of Mexico; no one was ready to give. This thought came to me as I perused news accounts of international difficulties one autumn afternoon in 1916.... If the women of the two countries become closer friends, the men will have to be. Uninvolved in commercial, financial or political misunderstanding, the women can meet with mutual sympathy and liking"...."Then, Mrs. Griswold added, " I visioned a great Union of the women of the two Americas, a Union which would bring in its wake a permanent peace." Her hope, realized beyond her wildest dream, is summed up clearly and concisely in our Collect:--"...through knowledge we gain understanding; that understanding leads to friendship."

When we think of Pan Americanism we can be proud to reflect its lasting legacy through our membership in the Pan American Round Table movement.

Before I close I wish to credit my primary sources: In preparation for this presentation, I "surfed" the web and found a wealth of information at Log on and check it out! I am also most grateful to my San Antonio Table "sisters" Amali Perkins and Thirza Guttman who graciously provided me with valuable background information on Mrs. Griswold and Pan Americanism. These women exemplify the Pan American Round Table spirit of cooperation--one for all and all for one! Gracias, amigas.

Audreyjane Castro

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