John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Welcome to President and Mrs. Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast at the Washington National Airport

May 22, 1962

Mr. President, Madame:

I want to express our very warm welcome to you, Mr. President, on the occasion of this state visit to our country.

You were extremely kind to the representatives of the United States at your Independence Day a year ago, which included the Attorney General of the United States and Mrs. Kennedy, who came to know you on that occasion and to admire what you were doing for your country.

We are glad to have you here for many reasons. First because you have had a most distinguished and extraordinary career as an architect not only of the independence of your own country but a leader in the efforts of many African countries to gain their independence and at the same time maintain harmonious relations with the great traditions of the free world. The leader and the founder of the largest political party in West Africa almost 20 years ago, as a Minister of State of France, the architect and signator of the Loi Cadre which made it possible for a number of countries to gain their independence, the leader of your own country, of the Entente between you and your fellow states, of the larger union of your state with other African states, this has been a most extraordinary record.

We have had visit our country many of those who have helped win independence for their own country, but I cannot recall in recent years a distinguished leader who has played such a significant role in winning and maintaining the independence of so many countries and who at the same time has spoken with the greatest vigor and determination in behalf of the national interests of his people, of the interests of the people of his continent, and at the same time extended the hand of friendship so powerfully to those who wish to maintain happy and harmonious relations with the continent of Africa and with the Ivory Coast.

So, Mr. President, we regard it as a great honor to have you here. And we are particularly glad that you have brought your Madame with you, and also the members of your government, so that the United States and the Ivory Coast, separated by many thousands of miles of ocean but united in a common desire to maintain the peace and freedom of our people, will have a chance to be brought together.

We are glad to see you, Madame.

Note: President Houphouet-Boigny responded (through an interpreter) as follows:

Mr. President, it is with great emotion that I have listened to the kind words which you have addressed to me, the words which were perhaps even too kind. It is also with a great pleasure that I find myself here in the United States where I have come twice already in the past.

Our entire country appreciates the welcome which you have extended to me and to the members of my government, to my wife, here in Washington in this magnificent and this beautiful capital of the United States.

Since my last visit here an extremely important event has taken place. On the 7th of August my country has acceded to full independence, to full international sovereignty, and it is fair to remember in that respect that the United States was one of the first countries of the world to trust us, to recognize us, and to exchange with us diplomatic missions at Embassy level.

All of the citizens of the Ivory Coast have greatly appreciated your sending to us for the first anniversary of our independence a delegation made up of very important personalities, at the head of which was your own brother, the Attorney General. And today, even beyond the proof of the friendship which my visit here constitutes, I am happy that this visit in answering your kind invitation is also going to make it possible for us to bring us closer, to make even more intimate the ties which unite us.

This, Mr. President, because our country has taken the way of international cooperation, together side by side with all those who work for the freedom, for the happiness of mankind.

The world is today too small for any isolationism, for any egoism. At no time have we needed international solidarity as much as we need it today. And this international solidarity is the very basis of the foreign policy of my country, as it is the very basis of the foreign policy of your country.

Visits such as mine here, such as the visit I hope you are going to render to us, Mr. President, are necessary. They are necessary to bring together the leaders responsible for the fate of nations. They are necessary also to bring closer to one another the peoples of the world, to teach them how to know each other better, and how to like each other better, which is a necessary consequence of the first.

My entire country thanks you, Mr. President, for the words which you have addressed to me, for the way in which you have spoken of us. The citizens of the Ivory Coast know already that we have in the past found each other side by side, our citizens have fought side by side in the defense of freedom, of liberty, in the world.

Today we are again in a different battle, a battle in which we must again fight side by side, a battle to give to the world the possibility of living better, of living in freedom, and of living in more justice, a battle for a defense of liberty, and a battle for mutual tolerance-this tolerance which I have felt here; a battle, above all, for a defense of peace.

You, Mr. president, have been the prime architect of this fight for peace in the world, for international solidarity. You have given to the United States a clear conscience of their mission in the world, and for that reason, Mr. President, I am presenting to you the warmest salutations of my entire people--to you and to the people of the United States.

It is also a pleasure and an honor to greet here Mrs. Kennedy--Mrs. Kennedy who is so greatly admired in my country and to whom I bring the greetings of all the women of the Ivory Coast.

And so Mr. President, to conclude, I will say, "Long live the United States." Let us express the hope that the friendship among our countries will grow still warmer, still more effective.
Thank you.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Welcome to President and Mrs. Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast at the Washington National Airport Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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