Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Henry Cabot Lodge as Ambassador to South Viet-Nam.

August 12, 1965

Mr. Vice President, the Ambassador and Mrs. Lodge, Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara, Ambassador Taylor:

This is a very proud occasion for all of us here. But in a larger and more important sense, I think this is an occasion to make all the Nation proud.

What America is, and all that America will ever be, is built on the willingness of her most able citizens to serve their country in times of need without regard either to their personal comfort or sacrifice. The duties of freedom today call many of our finest young Americans to the jungles of Viet-Nam, half a world away--and we are deeply proud of those young men and we are proud of the services they are rendering as we meet here in this very small ceremony, by special request of Ambassador Lodge. But it is a very great cause for special pride and reassurance that seasoned and able Americans like Maxwell Taylor and Henry Cabot Lodge are willing to respond voluntarily and unselfishly to the same call that our young men have responded to out there in the rice paddies.

Last year when Ambassador Lodge asked to return from his post, I was thrilled and I was somewhat moved, as President, by the many who came to me and who volunteered to accept this assignment, to take up the duties as Ambassador to Viet-Nam--men like Dean Rusk, Bob McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, and a member of the Cabinet at that time, now Senator Robert Kennedy, as well as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Maxwell Taylor.

I selected General Taylor for this most important of our diplomatic assignments with the understanding that I would ask him to serve for a period of a year.

And the search for the best man to succeed Ambassador Taylor was neither very long nor very difficult, for the search led first to Ambassador Lodge. I thought he was the best equipped by training and by experience and by knowledge of conditions there. And when he was first asked, his first and immediate answer was "Yes, Mr. President."

So America can be very proud of both of these distinguished sons.

Ambassador Lodge is just that. He is one of the truly distinguished Americans of our time. He is a Senator. He gave up his Senate seat to go into the Army in World War II. He was a soldier. He is a diplomat. He was the nominee of his party for the second Office of the land. He is a son of an honored American family. He served his country and his times with very rare ability and effectiveness. His return to Saigon is a characteristic act of a man that is motivated only by a great sense of duty to his people and to his country. It inspires the respect and the confidence of all of his countrymen and the leaders of other nations in the world.

I have known Cabot Lodge as both personal friend and as a political opponent. Whether ally or adversary, his wisdom, and his courage, his decency and patriotism have always had my admiration. I understand the yearning within him that leads him to seek again not the easy life, not the quiet life, but the active and useful life, the dangerous life of the duty to which he returns.

Ambassador Lodge and I have spent many hours together these past few weeks. In the review of our Viet-Nam policies and the shaping of the decisions announced on July 28, he had a very full part as a participant and I am glad to say he is in full agreement with those decisions.

Ambassador Lodge and I are fully agreed on the underlying principle that in Viet-Nam we are there to help the people and their Government to help themselves. We are not there to substitute our effort for theirs. We are there to supplement their own brave and gallant and continuing effort of defending themselves.

Our determination is built on their determination. The United States would never undertake the sacrifice these efforts require if its help were not wanted and requested.

Ambassador Lodge remembers, as I remember, the tragic road of weakness and expediency that led this world to war a generation ago. He remembers, as I remember, when the appetite of aggressors was allowed to feed on small and defenseless nations. He is determined, as I am and as I believe the American people are, that the world shall not walk that tragic road toward darkness again.

We have made commitments around the world. And those who seek our support against aggression are going to have it. In Viet-Nam the credibility of our commitment everywhere is challenged. We did not choose the time or the place of testing. But we do choose to meet that test and to keep our trust and to keep that word that has been given by three Presidents.

At the same time, we of this Nation have made, and for 189 years we have kept, a higher commitment to all mankind: the commitment to use our resources and our strength and our will to support the end of peace. The defense of peace is the very purpose of our power, and peace for the people of Viet-Nam is the purpose of our presence in Viet-Nam. And I would remind all in the world that that is our only purpose.

Our effort to assure peace for the Vietnamese people is an effort that proceeds on many fronts. Ambassador Lodge and General Westmoreland will continue to work as a team, doing what is necessary militarily so that what is desirable politically and economically can be done to secure and strengthen peace for the people of Viet-Nam.

Let these leaders and all Americans there know that they have the support of a Nation that is united, and a people that is undivided.

So, today, I am very proud to publicly express to Maxwell Taylor our country's gratitude for a fine and faithful service, and to wish him well, and to urge him to stay close by our side in the days ahead. And to say to Ambassador Lodge that I express our country's admiration and appreciation for his willing return to the duties of this great effort--this great effort for freedom--and to wish him Godspeed.

Note: The swearing-in ceremony was held at 12:25 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening words the President referred to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Ambassador and Mrs. Henry Cabot Lodge, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, and Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, Ambassador to South Viet-Nam June 1964-July 1965.

During his remarks the President referred to McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President, Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York, former Attorney General of the United States, and Gen. William C. Westmoreland, Commander of U.S. Forces in South Viet-Nam.

Following the administration of the oath of office, Ambassador Lodge spoke briefly. The text of his remarks is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 1, p. 82). Mr. Lodge previously served as Ambassador to South Viet-Nam from July 1963 to June 1964.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Swearing In of Henry Cabot Lodge as Ambassador to South Viet-Nam. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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