President Chen Shui-bian (
"I know people had a lot of doubts about the trip, but reality has proven them wrong," Chen said.
He was speaking to a group of medical professionals yesterday at a dinner banquet hosted by the Taiwan Medical Association.
"Being honored with a human rights award and making a public speech that was aired in Taiwan, being welcomed by US congressmen at the airport, meeting with the governor of Alaska, being interviewed by the international press -- all of these are historic firsts for Taiwan," Chen said.
Straying from his original speech, Chen recounted his previous trips to the US.
"In August 2000, not even three months into my presidency, I visited Los Angeles," he said.
Chen said that during the visit, he was not allowed to leave his hotel room.
"Even if I just wanted to see friends and family, I could only have up to 15 people in my room," he said.
He added that media coverage had been strictly prohibited then as his trip was considered a private visit.
"This is how they treat us? Do they think we have no feelings or tears? At the time, there was nothing to do but swallow the tears," Chen said.
During his trip to New York in May 2001, Chen said he was touched by the effort of US congressmen to see him.
Chen said House Majority Leader Tom Delay, then the majority whip, had wanted to treat him to steak and baseball. Chen expressed regret, however, that all of the proceedings had to be kept from the public and the media.
Bridging his experiences abroad with the movement to gain entry to the World Health Organization (WHO), Chen explained that just as there had been doubts about his trip abroad, there are doubts about Taiwan's membership in the health body.
"It took 12 years for us to become a part of the WTO, and even though we're going to have to work hard, I believe that we can gain at least observer status in the WHO in less than 12 years," Chen stated.