Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at a Reception for the Secretary of State and Mrs. Rusk.

January 15, 1969

Ambassador, Dean Sevilla-Sacasa; members of the diplomatic corps; Secretary and Mrs. Rusk; ladies and gentlemen:

I am sorry I was a little late. But I wanted to come over here this evening for several reasons.

First, I wanted to say a very fond goodby to all of the members of the diplomatic corps who have been the eyes and the ears of their country in the United States during my Presidency.

I have enjoyed working with you and knowing you. I have seen you often at the White House. Some of you I have seen in Texas.

I have been at your embassies and I like to think that we have become good friends.

But I wanted to come here to express the great affection and esteem that Mrs. Johnson and I both have for the very fine gentleman and the lovely lady for whom you are giving this reception and to whom the Ambassador just presented this lovely gift.

For 8 years now, Dean Rusk has been America's chief representative in the community of the world, a community in which he very deeply and sincerely believes and to which he has devoted most of his entire life.

I believe that he will be remembered as one of the greatest Secretaries of State in our Republic. And while I hesitate to speak for all the United States, so far as Johnson City, Texas, is concerned, he is the greatest.

I think the members of the diplomatic corps have come to know the many qualities that I have long cherished about this great man--his genuine interest in the ideas and the beliefs of other people, his great respect for the rich diversity of their cultures, his devotion to the ideals of freedom and integrity, and, always foremost, his passionate love for peace.

Secretary Rusk was once asked what he thought was his greatest achievement in office. And he replied that he was most gratified that in an age when man had devised tools with which he could destroy the entire world, that we had been able to maintain a measure of peace and order.

Well, that is no small achievement, but then Dean Rusk is no small man. To me, he has been always a strong and a respected voice and a very wise counselor and a real good and trusted friend.

One of the happiest predictions that I am going to make tonight--and I do not have the average of 83 percent that Drew Pearson enjoys--but I am going to make this prediction: that after sacrificing so much for so long, Virginia, Mrs. Rusk, will once again get acquainted with her husband.

There is one thing that I think I should apologize for. I am afraid he spent more time with me in the last 5 years than he has with you.

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been my great privilege to work with all of you toward peace and freedom in this world in which we live.

I thank all of you for what you have done. Mrs. Johnson and I appreciate your many thoughtful, generous courtesies, and we know of nothing that you could do that would mean more to us than this sincere tribute you pay to this great man.

Note: The President spoke at 7:20 p.m. at the Pan American Union Building in Washington. In his opening words he referred to Dr. Guillermo Sevilla-Sacasa, Nicaraguan Ambassador to the United States and dean of the diplomatic corps, who presented Secretary and Mrs. Dean Rusk with a large, engraved sterling silver coffee tray.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at a Reception for the Secretary of State and Mrs. Rusk. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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