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Remarks of Welcome to President Olympio of Togo at the Washington National Airport

March 20, 1962

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen:

I know I speak on behalf of all the people of the United States in welcoming President Olympio here to our country. And in him I believe we see an exceptionable figure--not only in Africa but really on the world scene. Speaking English, French, and German, he is able to, by this means, establish a most valuable channel to the great historical movements, the revolutions which have shaped all those countries, the principles of those revolutions upon which he is attempting to build his own country.

This happy union, therefore, in a sense, of Africa, Western Europe, the United States, is personified in the personality, the work-the lifework--the efforts of our distinguished guest.

His influence has gone far beyond his own country. At the recent conference at Lagos, which took, I believe, progressive and responsible stands, he served, for example, as an interpreter between those who spoke French and those who spoke English--but his interpreting was not confined to language but also was an effort to achieve a unity among the African leaders who, having won the war for independence, now face the even harder task of building free and viable countries and economies.

I am sure the President would agree that however difficult the struggle for independence may have been, it carried with it a certain exhilaration and plan which made all things easy. All of the difficulties were concentrated, of the country, in one direction. It is far more difficult to be a self-governing and free country. This represents the ultimate challenge to any choice-it presents them with a free choice--and choice is always difficult.

So, Mr. President, for your efforts to win independence for your country, but even more, for your efforts to build a better life for your people, and to play a progressive and liberal and responsible position in the development of Africa, for your strong support for the United Nations--which played a great role, and I hope that the people of this country realize how significant that role was in the independence of your country-for all these things, and most of all because it permits us to establish a contact between the President of a far-off country whose aspirations are for his people--the same as our aspirations are for our people-for all these reasons, Mr. President, you are most welcome to the United States of America. And in welcoming you, we extend the hand of friendship to your people.

Note: President Olympio responded as follows: Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen:

Mr. President, it is a great pleasure and an honor to be invited by you to visit the United States. Of course personally I am not a stranger to the United States--I have been on and off in this country for several years. But never before have I come to the United States as an official visitor.

If you will excuse me, Mr. President, I can assure you that I have been looking forward to this visit with almost a boyish eagerness. It is because, Mr. President, we have heard so much about you. We have heard that you are very eager to give a new impetus--may I perhaps say even a revolutionary impetus, to the friendly relationship between the newly independent African states and also the United States.

This, Mr. President, is greatly appreciated, and I have been looking forward to seeing you, and to see your collaborators, so as to understand better this new relationship which you wish to establish.

Of course the United States--may I say the people of the United States have always taken a very keen interest in the welfare of my people, and just before I left home, I have been informed that the United States Government has decided to come to the help of the famine-stricken region of my country with shiploads of foodstuffs.

We are deeply grateful.

We hope, sir, that in the coming years, with collaboration in all fields, we should also bring our country to a level to which we all aspire. I hope that my visit here will enable me to understand more fully the policies of the United States, and at the same time to contribute in a small measure to explain to you the real aspirations of our country.

Once more, Mr. President, I thank you most sincerely on behalf of my people and on behalf of the members of my delegation, for the very warm welcome which you have extended to us.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Welcome to President Olympio of Togo at the Washington National Airport Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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