Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Arrival at the Airport, Wellington, New Zealand

October 19, 1966

Your Excellency, Lady Fergusson, Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Holyoake, Your Excellencies, Ministers of the Crown and my very dear friends of New Zealand:

I am deeply indebted to Her Majesty for her generous words on this occasion.

I have enjoyed, a great deal, observing the pride of your young manhood as I reviewed the Guard.

After 4,650 miles of flying over water-with one stop on the Island of Samoa--we feel as if we have finally found the Promised Land.

I suspect our impressions are very much like those of the men and women who came out here a century ago from Britain and discovered the green fields and the hillsides where cattle and sheep could be raised in abundance, and a decent life provided for their children.

That is one of the many experiences I think that we have in common. For many other men and women--among them, the brothers and sisters and cousins of those who came to New Zealand--sought the same dream and came to America and found it. And some of them this afternoon are watching their sheep graze on the green countryside in my home State. And like those New Zealanders, the new Americans gave themselves totally to the task of molding the land to their needs. There was much work to be done at home, and little time or inclination to take part in the world's affairs.

But this century has changed all of that. It has changed it for both of us. Again and again we have been cast into the storm of international strife.

Both of us have been drawn into World Wars against our desires. Both of us have come to acknowledge our responsibilities for building world peace.

On the battlefronts of Europe, the Near East, Asia and the Pacific, Americans and New Zealanders have fought side by side and have died side by side in order to preserve liberty and human freedom for other human beings.

Around the conference tables of the United Nations, New Zealanders and Americans have labored to devise a more rational system for settling these conflicts between nations.

So the 6,000 miles that separate us really shrink into insignificance. What is important is that your nation and ours, though young in the chronology of historical time, have come of age in much the same way-- have drawn much the same conclusions from the chaotic experience of this century--and now look to the future together with much the same hopes and many of the same apprehensions.

I thought of those common hopes on the way here from Samoa this afternoon. For on that little island the Samoan people, 22,000 Of them, have begun to build a progressive and an enlightened society. We have been trying to encourage them and assist them, as you have in the Pacific islands in which you have historic ties. In Wellington and in Washington we have united and we have understood that affluent nations have responsibilities toward those whose development is only beginning. I hope that we can share our experiences on these islands. I want to assure you that we are ready to adopt as our own any programs that you have put into successful effect in these islands. We are very eager to make available to you a full account of the Samoan experience of ours.

I should not like to close without a personal recollection--one that makes the tie between our nations all the more real for me. As I said at the airport I first came to, when I came to New Zealand one foggy day back in 1942, almost a quarter of a century ago, I was riding a flying boat. It came down onto Auckland Bay. We couldn't see the bay and we didn't know whether we were going to land on the water or on the land in our flying boat.

I thus became one of thousands of Americans who received your hospitality and received your care during a very young part of my life and a very dangerous period. You people of New Zealand took our American boys into your homes and you cared for the sick and the wounded among us, you gave us--when we needed it most--a home away from home.

I must say, frankly, I have been wanting to come back here ever since and here I am.

Not long afterwards, I fell quite ill with a fever I had contracted in New Guinea. I was hospitalized at Suva, in the Fiji Islands. I take it that I must have been in a bad way-though being delirious with a fever of 105 and not remembering what happened, I was not really a good judge of my condition.

But New Zealand doctors and nurses cared for me with great skill, with the help of an American doctor who later came in. They pulled me through what was a very rough and very lonely time--and since then, I have thought of New Zealand always with the warmest gratitude.

You may, in the history books, have to assume your share of responsibility for what later happened in Washington, because it was your care and compassion that made it really possible for me to ever get back to Washington.

Competent, strong, and compassionate New Zealanders symbolized for me the character of this nation. My opinion has only been deepened and confirmed by the years that have followed.

So, I am so glad to be back here on your soil again. Mrs. Johnson and I look forward to seeing something of your beautiful country and to meeting as many of your great people as our time permits. I would so much like to see some of your countryside, particularly some of your great sheep.

I want to tell you in closing that we bring with us, to all the people of New Zealand from all of the people of the United States, the proud affection and the great respect of our people for your people.

To those of you who have stood here on this breezy afternoon in the chill and the rain a little earlier, I say: Thank you so very, very much for your cordiality.

Note: The President spoke at 5:55 p.m. at Wellington International Airport, Wellington, New Zealand.

In his opening words he referred to Sir Bernard Fergusson, Governor General of New Zealand, and his wife, and to Keith J. Holyoake, Prime Minister of New Zealand, and his wife.

Prior to the President's remarks, the Governor General had read a message of welcome from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

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

Filed Under



New Zealand

Simple Search of Our Archives