At the White House John Paul II spoke of his Polish heritage and the importance of respect for the dignity of the person.
Divine Providence in its own designs has called me from my native Poland to be the Successor of Peter in the See of Rome and the leader of the Catholic Church. It gives me great joy to be the first Pope in history to come to the Capital of this nation, and I thank Almighty God for this blessing. In accepting your courteous invitation, Mr. President, I have also hoped that our meeting today would serve the cause of world peace, international understanding and the promotion of full respect for human rights everywhere. . . .
I come from a nation with a long tradition of deep Christian faith and with a national history marked by many upheavals; for more than a hundred years Poland was even erased from the political map of those values without which no society can prosper: love of freedom, cultural creativity, and the conviction that common endeavors for the good of society must be guided by a true moral sense. My own spiritual and religious mission impels me to be the messenger of peace and brotherhood, and to witness to the true greatness of every human person. This greatness derives from the love of God, who created us in his own likeness and gave us an eternal destiny. It is in this dignity of the human person that I see the meaning of history, and that I find the principle that gives sense to the role which every human being has to assume for his or her own advancement and for the well-being of the society to which he or she belongs.