Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Signing of the Asian Development Bank Act

March 16, 1966

Mr. Vice President, Secretary Rusk, Secretary Fowler, Mr. Black, distinguished Ambassadors, Members of the Congress, my fellow Americans:

This is a moment in which history and hope meet and move on from here as partners. Less than 1 year ago, on April 7, 1965, I asked for the creation of the Asian development plan to seek economic advance and social justice for all of Asia. I pledged the full support of the United States of America to that task.

Today we have begun to redeem that pledge. The act I sign this morning authorizes the United States of America to ratify the charter of the Asian Development Bank.

Seldom have nations joined together in a collective venture that is so endowed with promise. For that reason this moment is a very special one for so many people:

--First, for the Asian leaders, who conceived and organized the bank and who are so ably represented here today by the Ambassadors from their countries.

--For the people of those non-Asian nations which have signed the charter, and whose Ambassadors have come this morning to bespeak again their vision and their generosity.

--For my great friend, a true American, Eugene Black, whose energy and tact have been as indispensable as his experience and wisdom.

--And to the Congress of the United States and the members of both parties who have acted to invest in this enterprise not only the resources but the faith of the 190 million people whom they represent.

This act is an economic Magna Carta for the diverse lands of Asia. Its charter links 31 countries in a union against the involuntary economic servitude imposed on the people of Asia by time and circumstance and by neighbor and nature. There is also a deeper meaning. This billion dollar bank is a symbol that the twain have met, not as Kipling predicted, "at God's great Judgment Seat," but at the place of man's shared needs.

It is no longer possible to be a mere observer at that place. It is not possible--and it is not right--to neglect a people's hopes because the ocean is 'vast, or their culture is alien, or their language may be strange, or their race different, or their skin another color.

Asia just must no longer sit at the second table of the 20th century's concern. The economic network of this shrinking globe is too intertwined. The political order of continents is too involved with one another. The threat of common disaster is too real for all human beings to say of Asia, or any other continent, "Yours . . . is another sphere."

I believe that those who make that case are no less patriotic and no less sincere than those who believe that we cannot shorten the length of our reach into the world.

But I believe equally as firmly that those people are wrong. And while I expect they will continue to make their argument of isolationism versus globalism--for we all are determined to preserve their right to speak up in this land--I hope they, too, expect me to try to keep on making my case for realism. That, I think, is the right of the President of this country, and the President feels that is his duty.

And what is that case? It is simply that there is no rest from the trials of freedom, there is no recalling what the pace of change has done to the map of this big world, there is no reducing our responsibilities while the challenges of progress will not permit us to name the site for our duel or the weapons that we use.

It is that we cannot turn from the place of shared needs and expect either peace or progress to follow us.

So today we have come here to the historic East Room of the White House and gathered at this place to start a journey together.

The Asian Development Bank is the first step of what I conceive to be a very long journey.

We are taking another today by announcing that we have pledged a half of the $24 million that is needed to construct the large Mekong River project, the Nam Ngum tributary project in Laos. Seven other countries, Japan, the Netherlands, Canada, Thailand, Denmark, Australia, and New Zealand, are joining us in that effort.

For the United States it is our first major commitment under our promise to expand economic and social development in Southeast Asia. The Nam Ngum project is the Mekong Committee's highest priority undertaking and, like the Asian Development Bank, it represents a major accomplishment in joint cooperation in the world.

The first phase of the project will include a dam and power station with an installed capacity up to 30,000 kilowatts. Additional generators up to 120,000 kilowatts can be installed as they are needed. An international transmission line, with a link across the Mekong River, will connect the power station with the capital of Laos and northeast Thailand.

This is just one example of how the fruits of technology--and the ingenuity of cooperation-can bring new life to whole new regions of the world.

More, yes, much more, awaits our response. Schools and hospitals can be built. Rivers can be tamed. New crops and new breeds of livestock can be developed. There are no bounds to the possibilities, if there are no limits to our dreams.

It has been said that "no statue was ever erected to the memory of a man or woman who thought it was best to let well enough alone."

So it is with the nations that we represent here today. We seek no statues to our memory. We seek only one real monument, a monument with peace and progress for its base and justice for its pinnacle.

Together--your lands and mine--we will build it.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:40 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Hubert H. Humphrey, Vice President of the United States, Dean Rusk, Secretary of State, Henry H. Fowler, Secretary of the Treasury, and Eugene R. Black, adviser to the President on Southeast Asian social and economic development and former President of the World Bank.

As enacted, the Asian Development Bank Act is Public Law 89-369 (80 Stat. 71).

For the President's address on April 7, 1965, asking for creation of an Asian development plan, see 1965 volume, this series, Book 1, Item 172.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Signing of the Asian Development Bank Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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