Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Parliamentary Luncheon, Wellington, New Zealand

October 20, 1966

Mr. Prime Minister, Your Grace, the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, Mr. Kirk, Members of the Parliament, ladies and gentlemen:

First of all I apologize for being late-I attribute that to the graciousness of the good people of Wellington. Mrs. Johnson and I are quite honored to be in New Zealand--we have had a delicious luncheon-very well served--for which I feel further in the debt of the ladies and the management.

Physically, we have not entirely adjusted to the southern hemisphere after our long flight, but you may be sure that our hearts are already in residence.

We came by jet from Hawaii and Samoa, riding the smooth jet stream at more than 500 miles an hour for almost 10 hours. And it was quite a change from my last arrival in New Zealand--in the spring of 1942 when both nations faced very grim problems together, and when your men joined our men shoulder to shoulder to try to protect the liberty and freedom not only of the people of New Zealand but of the people of America as well. That was back in 1942 and I came here in an old PB2Y2 flying boat. We sputtered through the fog and finally, with the help of the good Lord, landed in Auckland Bay--we weren't sure that we weren't on a sheep ranch somewhere, because the weather was zero zero. But it has improved, Mr. Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I assume that the election has nothing to do with it. Since the Prime Minister brought up the ugly subject about what a noise people made when you talked in terms of millions of dollars, I guess they do make some noise in a nation of two or three million. But if you are talking in terms of taxes, in terms of millions of dollars, before 200 million Americans, you don't know what noise is.

I thought it was rather significant that both of our distinguished, eloquent speakers spent a good portion of their time on our disagreements. I don't know whether they were anticipating, or just wanted to kind of clear the atmosphere with their constituents. But as far as I am concerned, I am unaware of any great disagreements, although I welcome them. I think they are a good thing. I think they produce strong people. I think they develop enduring friendship. I wonder what the leader of the opposition and the Prime Minister would think if we all saw everything alike--we would all want the same wife. So, differences are good for us.

Now back to that old flying boat that I arrived here in. It was, by today's standards, very primitive. And dangerous as those days were back in 1942, for New Zealanders and Americans, your welcome was as warm then as it was today--although not as numerous. But it was outgoing, and it was generous to the men who wore the American uniform.

To me it was perhaps more needed for a lanky lieutenant commander in 1942 than it is for a President in 1966. But ever since that day 25 years ago, I promised myself that I would come and bring my lady to New Zealand. I assure you that neither of us were disappointed from the time we landed on your soil yesterday.

Our two nations are separated by 6,000 miles of the blue Pacific Ocean. But we are united by historical interest and commitments that we think are far more important in the shaping of our national destinies than in the miles that divide us.

First among them is a tradition of representative democracy. It is right that I should be speaking today before parliamentarians whose heritage derives, as does ours in the American Congress, from the British House of Commons. And as a parliamentarian or legislator for more than 24 years, 12 in the House and 12 in the Senate and 3 as Vice President, I know that I feel at home in your presence.

It is not only the democratic tradition that unites us. Both of us, Americans and New Zealanders, believe that we have much work to do beyond our shores. It may once have been possible for a democracy to flourish in one country, isolated from the misery and oppression that befell other men. But neither reason nor conscience permits such a narrow view of our responsibilities today.

This basic truth came home to both of our nations--and to you, I think, sooner than to us--in the course of two World Wars.

And I never go to bed at night but what I thank the Dear Lord for Winston Churchill whose eloquence finally awakened the sleeping giant in America, almost too late, but in time.

New Zealanders twice left these beautiful islands to fight, not just for themselves, but to fight for the freedom and liberty of all men. Brave beyond measure, they fell at Gallipoli, in the skies over Britain, in Greece, in El Alamein, at Monte Cassino, in the jungles of the Pacific.

I was in a ward hospital with many of them stretched out on the beds at the side of me in June 1942. And beneath the "lemon squeezer" and the berets that were their hallmarks, their strong, confident, and brave faces gave heart to their allies--to all of us--and finally brought victory for freedom on many battlefields.

I knew many of them in those years--I revered them all for their character, their integrity, their courage. Today on behalf of a people with whom shoulder to shoulder they fought and suffered and died, I have come here to salute their towering memory.

Again, in 1950 when an invading army crossed into the Republic of Korea, both our nations answered the aggressor's challenge promptly. Ours was a unity of nations who longed to live in peace, but who understood, from the bitter lessons of two wars, what the consequences of appeasement would be.

Every man wants peace. That is something that all of you should take cognizance of now. You can't separate men by those who want peace and those who don't want peace. Every man wants peace. Every man hates to kill. Every man wants to live. No man wants to die.

We were determined then, in the words of the United Nations Charter, "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war." And together with the army of the Republic of Korea and other brave allies, we finally turned back the invaders, and we made it possible for the people of the Republic of Korea to work out their destiny in freedom. Today 44,600 of them from that little nation are proud allies in another struggle to permit men to be free in another little nation, South Vietnam.

You were a valiant part of that war effort and yours has been a clear and a decent voice always in the councils of peace. New Zealand contributed to the United Nations-both in diplomatic efforts and in programs of assistance to humanity--to a degree, I think, that has excited the admiration of all of her associates. And as you were ready to stand against military aggression, so you were prepared to help build a world society in which free nations would be able to provide security and provide hope for their people.

From long experience you knew that fighting an invading soldier in uniform or fighting an armed terrorist is only one part of the war in Asia, and only one part of your responsibility.

For hundreds of millions of Asians, the most common terrorism is not that of guns or grenades. It is that of hunger and of disease and of poverty and of illiteracy. These are as capable of crushing the hopes of man as any ruthless enemy with his mortar or his bombs or his guns.

Much of this war in Asia still remains to be fought, and we are calling now for volunteers for it, too. You have played an honorable part in helping your neighbors, especially in the Pacific islands, fight the war against want. And we in the United States have joined you--as the distinguished Prime Minister has made, I hope, appropriate reference--as allies in this struggle against the ancient enemies of mankind: ignorance, illiteracy, disease, and poverty.

We have worked to help the people of Asia delay--delay, yes, and I think finally halt--the march of hunger and disease. But if we in the developing nations were to try to accomplish this alone, with only our resources, we--and Asia--would surely fail.

Fortunately, we are not alone. Asia is blessed with men and women whose determination is as strong as their country's needs. Throughout this vast area of the globe, the planners and the builders are today at work. The key to Asian peace in coming generations is in Asian hands.

For it is Asia's initiative that will found the institution of progress.

It is Asia's example that will inspire its people to build on the bedrock of social justice.

It is Asia's dream that will determine the future for three of every five human beings on earth.

And I know that your nation and my nation will respond to that dream and will respond willingly and will respond generously.

Yet all of our efforts--all the planning, all the devotion, all the resources free nations are able to commit to Asia--can be demoralized and destroyed if the terrorist and the aggressor ever succeed in dominating the people.

It is difficult to grow crops, to irrigate fields, to operate schools, to care for the old, to educate the young, to levy taxes, and provide for the people's needs when you are operating in an atmosphere and a climate of terror.

I looked at some figures yesterday. In one little small area we had built 65 schools only to have 55 of those 65 destroyed by the terrorist. The terrorist knows that if he can break down this fabric of community life, then he is well on his way to conquest. And where that conquest stops no one knows.

On what meat does this Caesar feed and when will he halt?

He tried it in Malaya. After great sacrifices by the Malayan people, after great commitments of life and resources by Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, and other members of the Commonwealth and their allies, the terrorist outlaw has been defeated and ambitious invaders have been deterred.

He is trying it again today in Vietnam.

It is tragic that this war, the war of terror and bloodshed, must be fought before Asia can be fully free to wage the other war-the other war against hunger and disease and the ancient enemies of man. It is tragic that every foot of ground on which rice might be planted and every village in which a school might be built and every hillside on which a hospital might rise to heal the people of Vietnam must be secured and protected against terror.

Yet it must. For free men, for responsible men, for men of conscience, there just is no acceptable alternative but to resist aggression.

As the struggle continues, we are working with our allies to try to build the foundation of a new Vietnam. We are seeking to bring an end to this vicious war by asking men to come to the conference table.

We had a wonderful welcome. We had a lot of friendly signs and banners. We had some pickets carrying some signs saying "We want peace." I did not consider them unfriendly. We want peace, too.

I was somewhat startled that they should spend their talents and their time and their pickets and their cardboard on the President of the United States, because he has gone to more than 100 capitals with a very simple, plain statement that any picket can understand, that said, "We will meet you any place you designate in 24 hours with whomsoever you choose, to remove this disturbance from the battlefield to the conference room."

I saw many appeals made to the man to whom no appeal is necessary. But I didn't see Mr. Ho Chi Minh's name on one placard and I wondered why.

So if those men who join me genuinely and earnestly in wanting to stop the killing and stop the bloodshed and to bring peace to all humanity--if they can deliver the adversary, I will volunteer to present myself without due notice.

As the struggle continues, we are working with our allies every day, every week, to build the foundations, to bring an end to this vicious war.

Our goal is not to destroy North Vietnam. Our objective is not the objective of Roosevelt and Churchill and the other leaders: unconditional surrender.

Our goal is not to compel North Vietnam to surrender anything which is hers, not even to bring her Government down or to change her system. Our goal is simply to halt the shooting, to stop the war that she is waging and supporting against her little neighbor. When we succeed--and we shall succeed--I pledge you that we shall begin a nobler war against man's ancient enemies of hunger and ignorance and disease everywhere in Southeast Asia, including North Vietnam, if its Government so desires.

We say today to the leaders of North Vietnam: A new Asia is emerging. Your people should be part of it, proud, independent, peaceful, the beneficiaries of a social and scientific revolution that is regenerating the life of man.

What can be gained by continuing a war, we say to North Vietnam, that you cannot win? What can be gained? What can be lost by joining with your brothers in Southeast Asia in a different kind of war, a war for human dignity, a war for health, a war for enlightenment of the mind, a war for your children and generations of children to come?

Well, America pledges today, from this historic platform, that she will serve in that war against these ancient enemies in Southeast Asia--for its duration.

This, we believe, is an inescapable responsibility of a Pacific neighbor, as we know ourselves to be, as you in New Zealand have already shown on many fronts that you are.

Our New Zealand friends, there is much that we two nations can prove to the world.

We can prove to the world that it is possible to maintain close ties of affection with Europe without being cut off from Asia, blind to Asia's needs, or ignorant to her great culture.

We can prove that geographic separation does not require spiritual isolation, either from the opportunities or the problems of other men.

We can prove that wealth and prosperity need not build a wall around their fortunate possessors, but can build avenues of service to mankind.

Lastly, New Zealand and America can prove to the world that nations which have never felt the invader's heel on their soil can and will respond to those brothers who fight to make their own destiny.

These are the true and the worthy lessons of mankind. I rejoice that we have you as a partner in our effort to give them life.

I came here--10,000 miles--a quarter of a century ago to join with your men to protect the liberty of this area of the world. I am coming back this week to join with your Prime Minister and your leaders to try to search, to find a course and chart a way that we can again protect liberty and freedom, not by driving the dictator from our soil because he has not reached there yet.

But men often wonder how the course of history might have changed if we had met Hitler before he started through Poland. All men want peace. Some have different ways. Some have different methods. Some think that you can do it one way and some the other.

I am willing to accept any reasonable proposition and consider it, that any ally or any adversary may make. All I want to do, is not only to be the possessor of freedom and liberty, but I want to be the protector of it--not just for myself but for mankind.

So we are firmly committed to a partnership that has been tested in war. It has been deepened and expanded in peace and it has been strengthened, I hope, by SEATO and by ANZUS agreements.

We in the United States are here to pledge you that we shall meet our responsibilities, even though the danger, the immediate danger, is 10,000 miles from our boundaries. We will meet our responsibilities today, and in the decades ahead, with all the more confidence because the proud citizens of New Zealand happen to be America's friends.

Mr. Prime Minister, on behalf of 200 million who have come to ask nothing and to give nothing except our friendship and our loyalty, we tell you we are very proud that New Zealand is our friend--and we are prouder still that we are hers.

Note: The President spoke at 2:50 p.m. in the Social Hall of Parliament House, Wellington, New Zealand. In his opening words he referred to Keith J. Holyoake, Prime Minister of New Zealand, Sir Bernard Fergusson, Governor General of New Zealand, and Norman Kirk, Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party. Later he referred to, among others, Ho Chi Minh, President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Parliamentary Luncheon, Wellington, New Zealand Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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