Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at Dulles International Airport Upon Returning From the Asian-Pacific Trip.

November 02, 1966

Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Humphrey, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Supreme Court, members of the Cabinet, Your Excellencies the Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls:

We are glad to be back home. Thirty-one thousand, five hundred long miles seems a long way. And 17 days is a long time. But I know and I truly believe that every day and every hour and every mile was worth it.

I am returning home with three strong impressions. Before I give them to you, and before the rain comes, though, I want to say how grateful Mrs. Johnson and I, Secretary Rusk, and the other members of our party are to all of you good people who would come out in this inclement weather to make us feel at home when we arrive here in Washington.

I must say that in all the 17 days and in all the nine lands that we visited, we had perfect weather until we landed in the United States. When we got up to Alaska last night a little after midnight, we found that it was below freezing and it was raining a drizzle, and now we come here this evening and we have a little rain in the offing too. But that shows you what happens to us in America in election year.

Most farmers and ranchers, though, I think will be glad to have this rain, so I don't want to join the complainers.

My impressions that I would like to leave with you are these:

First, the great vitality of the new Asia where we have been. Everywhere factories, schools, homes, and village centers are going up. A new, a strong-minded, and a dedicated generation is reaching out for progress in government, in industry, and in agriculture.

Behind these men are coming the next generation, the schoolchildren. They came out in unbelievable numbers to greet us, and to wave our flag, and to applaud ours as it passed. Their faces glowed with life, with warmth, and with friendship. They glowed in intelligence and in eagerness.

I have put aside once and for all, I think, the old idea of faceless Asian masses. What I saw were hundreds of thousands of unique individuals, starting life well, clearly on the road to a very proud and very responsible citizenship.

There is still massive poverty to overcome, because I know you realize in this area most of the people live off of between $10 and $20 a month. But there is a spreading and growing confidence that comes when men see before their eyes that progress is possible and is obtainable by their own efforts.

My second impression that I came away with is the impression of unity, the solid unity that we achieved at the Manila Conference, the seven nations that met there.

And if you can think of all the things that they thought would go wrong, and some predicted would go wrong, that didn't go wrong, you can take great pride in the unity that was expressed.

The seven nations there agreed to four goals: --To be free from aggression; to try to resist an aggressor.

--To conquer hunger, illiteracy, and disease.

--To build a region of security and progress and order.

--To seek reconciliation and peace throughout Asia and the Pacific.

The chiefs of state and the heads of government personally forged these goals in a private, all-day session together where just the heads of state were present. They are now, tonight, the policy and the purpose of all of these seven nations.

These nations contain almost 300 million people. So what Manila showed was this: that those who are nearest the danger, those who are closest to the aggression in Vietnam, recognize it most clearly for what it really is--a campaign to destroy and to conquer a small country.

Each of us at the Manila Conference rejected the voice of the appeaser and the heel of the aggressor. Our allies know that the constructive goals that they have set for their people and their regions are sure to be frustrated unless aggression is defeated.

We agreed that our goal is an honorable peace, just as soon as it can be obtained. We would like it tomorrow, next week, this very hour. Beyond that, we look hopefully to the day when our adversaries will join with us in a war--in a different kind of war, though against hunger, illiteracy, and disease, and in rebuilding a region of security, order, and progress throughout Asia and the Pacific.

I also had a very deeply inspiring personal experience, if you will indulge me. I saw our men in Vietnam, fresh from battle. Many of them had come from the foxholes that morning. Many of them had come from their ships at sea.

I also visited with our men in Korea who are standing watch at the 38th parallel to deter a second invasion.

I want every American who reads what I say or who hears my report to know that they can be very proud of these men.

As we reviewed the ranks together, riding the jeep down the line, General Westmoreland leaned over to me and whispered in my ear. He said, "Mr. President, no Commander in Chief has ever commanded a finer fighting force than you see represented here at this airport."

Now that is a great tribute to Bob McNamara and to the military men who have trained these fellows and who guide them every day. But it is also a great tribute to the parents of this country who brought up these men and who gave them their training.

So because of duty, those men tonight are in Vietnam and in Korea. And because of duty, six of them died yesterday morning from Communist gunfire on the almost forgotten front of the 38th parallel in Korea. They died because there are men in this world who still believe that might makes right. They use force. They won't let other people live in peace.

But we have lived with this fact too long to forget it this soon. For two decades, from Eastern Europe to South Vietnam, the Communists have used force to impose their will on others. Only when other nations stood up to them and let them know they couldn't get by with it did they finally back down.

The men I saw in Vietnam are there tonight because we believe, we genuinely and sincerely believe, that aggression just must not succeed there or again. We are not alone in that belief. All the seven nations with us believe that, too. The leaders who met in Manila know that they have a very important stake in keeping the peace in their own backyards. If communism spreads, and local Communists backed by major powers have an opportunity to take sides, then they will take over. They know that it is their duty to try to help the United States keep these fires from spreading, and that effort will be increased.

We are doing our part. I want to renew tonight the pledge that I made in Vietnam at Cam Ranh Bay.

We shall never let these men down, nor their fighting comrades, nor the 15 million people in South Vietnam, nor the hundreds of millions in this area where we have treaty commitments. That, we consider the solemn promise of all the people of the United States of America.

The world of Asia and the Pacific is moving through a critical transition--from chaos to security, from poverty to progress, from the anarchy of narrow nationalism to regional cooperation, from endless hostility, we hope, to a stable peace.

It has been my hope and .my prayer since I left home 17 days ago that this journey and the meeting at Manila would help move things a little bit faster in the right direction.

History will decide. No new treaties were made. No new commitments were offered. All action taken or to be taken will follow our constitutional processes, but I think I can tell you tonight that I return much more confident and much more hopeful than when I left.

The job is certainly not done. The war in Vietnam is not over. Great obstacles must be overcome before progress is built into the life of Asia and the Pacific and before the region organizes itself thoroughly on a cooperative basis.

But everywhere we went, I met strong men who have put their shoulder to the wheel and their hands to the task. I saw leaders who know that in this era, the ultimate success of political power lies with the people. In some nations the people have a greater voice in their own affairs than they do in others, but everywhere the drumbeat of equality can be heard. And the leaders of modern Asia are getting in step with it rather fast.

They have our support. They have the encouragement of the United States Government.

Since I left Washington, I have seen millions of faces--by one estimate yesterday, more than 5 million people. Almost all of them, from Samoa to Korea, were friendly to the United States of America. They are united with us in the decision to resist force. They are united with us in our attempt to build a better world. And they are united with us in seeking, earnestly seeking, peace in the world.

Their leaders, along with your leaders, are willing to go anywhere, meet with any government at any time, and enter into any honorable agreement that will settle our differences at the conference table instead of on the battlefield.

But in the meantime, these people in the danger area are counting on our dedication to freedom and not our doubts. They are betting their very lives on our determination.

So I have come back here tonight to say this: Those of us who met at Manila, and those men whom we saw at the fighting front, know that the road ahead may be a long and a difficult one. We know that each of us will make some mistakes and we have no doubt but what they will be observed and pointed out from time to time.

But if our countrymen will stand with us, if we will try to travel this difficult road together, I think we will come out well at the end, as America always has.

I know that you know history. Where there is a deep division in a land, there is danger, danger to all the land. Where there is unity in the land, there is strength.

I want to leave you tonight with a prayer that was offered at the Sunday service up in Townsville, Australia, northern Australia, as we left there to go to the Manila Conference:

"O God, Who has bound us together in the bundle of life, give us grace to understand how our lives depend upon the courage, the industry, the honesty, and the integrity of our fellow men, that we may be mindful of their needs and grateful for their faithfulness, and faithful in our responsibilities to them."

So it was in that spirit that we have for 17 days tried our best to represent the best interests of all of our people and of this great country of ours. To each of you who endured this inclement weather to say "Glad to see you back," Lady Bird and I thank you from the bottom of our grateful hearts.

Note: The President spoke at 8:35 p.m. at Dulles International Airport, Chantilly, Va. In his opening words he referred to Vice President and Mrs. Hubert H. Humphrey and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren. Later he referred to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Gen. William C. Westmoreland, Commander, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at Dulles International Airport Upon Returning From the Asian-Pacific Trip. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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