Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks of Welcome to President Schick of Nicaragua on the South Lawn at the White House

June 09, 1966

Mr. President, distinguished honored guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Mr. President, I want to welcome you to Washington this morning on behalf of the United States Government and of the American people.

Our two countries share many ties and many interests. One of the strongest stands before us: your Ambassador and the Dean of our Diplomatic Corps, Dr. Sevilla-Sacasa, who has been untiring in his efforts, constant in his purpose, and always has attempted to serve not only the interests of the people of your country but the people of this entire hemisphere.

It is always good, Mr. President, when the heads of governments can come together. Each of us, each day, constantly faces new challenges. We here in the United States, for example, are now engaged in a great battle to eliminate the last elements of racial discrimination in this society of ours.

Mr. President, we are trying so hard to improve our entire educational system in this country. Because in every society education is the ultimate basis for responsible citizenship, for economic growth, for social progress.

We are determined, Mr. President, to improve the health of our young and of our old. And in the days ahead--this month-we will take some of the most revolutionary steps ever taken since the founding of our Republic in advancing health measures for the benefit of all the people of this country.

We are very much determined to keep our land beautiful in the face of an industrial civilization which threatens the landscape, the air, and the water.

I know that in your country, you too, Mr. President, face similar problems as your people strive to create a modern Nicaragua and as they desire to play their part as citizens of the hemisphere.

I am particularly proud that we could pay respect and honor--not just to you as President, although we are pleased that you could stop here on your visit to this country, but to pay respect and honor to every Nicaraguan citizen. We are especially pleased to observe Nicaragua's loyal collaboration in the Central American Common Market effort.

We know that in the field of education, in the field of health, and in the field of social betterment, no geographical lines divide human beings. Wherever the human heart beats, wherever the head thinks, people everywhere want the same things: better education for their children, better health for their families, better homes to live in.

I congratulate you, Mr. President, along with your Central American neighbors, for the progress that has been made toward a better and a fuller economic integration. We feel this is essential to improve the economic lot of the good people who inhabit this continent with us. Your visit coincides closely with the fifth anniversary of the Common Market endeavor which was so happily marked last week.

Our two countries share common objectives on the world scene as well as in this hemisphere.

And as the leaders of the world scene have come and gone from Washington, there has always been one person who joined with the officials of the United States to pay them respect and understanding--regardless of their political philosophy or from which continent they came. That person was the distinguished Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, our friend Sevilla-Sacasa. So this, too, acknowledges and pays to him a tribute that we think is long overdue.

Mr. President, we look forward to a continuation of the strong effort that is carrying us forward in this hemisphere toward the most desirable objectives and toward goals that we believe are attainable.

Today, I have asked some of the leaders of all groups, factions, and parties of this Government to come here and exchange suggestions and ideas with you as to how we can make a better life for our people.

We are happy that you could come to see us.

Note: The President spoke at 1:05 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House, where President Rene Schick Gutierrez was given a formal welcome with full military honors. President Schick responded as follows:

Your Excellency, President of the United States Lyndon Johnson, Mrs. Johnson, honorable representatives of the United States Government, honorable members of my own party, Your Excellency, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the United States of America, ladies and gentlemen:

In reality, I have been deeply moved and touched by the welcome that you have given me so generously and nobly this morning, President Johnson. I think this is perhaps a witness and a tribute to the friendship that happily has existed for so long between Nicaragua and the great American people. I have been deeply moved. I accept this on behalf of my own country because I know this is a tribute that is being rendered, not to me personally, but to my own country.

And on behalf of the people of Nicaragua I would like to express my deep appreciation for this welcome--it represents the open and frank and sincere friendship that has always bound us with the United States--and to thank you, President Johnson, for your very generous words.

I appreciate these all the more considering the source and person of your high virtues, your strong execution of policies, and your great struggle to fight for freedom, for justice, and for democracy throughout the world. All of these characteristics are well known not only to the people in my own country, but to people all over the world.

I would like to thank you especially, Mr. President, for this generous act of receiving the members of my party and receiving me in this extraordinary welcome which really has been very pleasing to my people and to my country.

I want to also express my deep appreciation to you because at your side, as you have greeted me, you have your wife, Mrs. Johnson. She is well known for the great assistance she has given you, not only in matters of the heart but also in matters of politics and for her work for social benefit, for education, for culture, and for health of your citizens of this great country.

So on behalf of the people of Nicaragua I would like to express my appreciation and present respectful greetings to the First Lady of the United States of America, whose heart is imbued we know with sentiments of love for all of mankind.

I want to thank you also, Mr. President, for your kind references to Dr. Guillermo Sevilla-Sacasa, the Ambassador of Nicaragua to the United States, as he has been for quite a long time. He has been my teacher. I worked with him in the Embassy during the course of several years. What little I was able to learn, what little I know, I learned from him.

I have learned from him some of the qualities he displays so well, the frankness of openness, of sincerity, of nobility of spirit, of generosity and especially the deep-rooted sentiments that he has of friendship for the United States of America which has been our policy for so many years. I want to express to him and render tribute to him on this date as Chief Executive of Nicaragua to him who yesteryear was my teacher and who now is my subordinate for the wonderful things that he has been able to do for me.

In the world today that is so convulsed with so many struggles, in this world in which there is so much restlessness and so much source for preoccupation, in this world in which there exist ideologies different from our own that threaten the very roots of our common Western civilization, I understand, Mr. President, that on your shoulders there rests a great many burdens and you have a great many sources of concern and a great deal of responsibility for the many problems that you have to deal with.

But I would like to tell you on this day and like to tell you publicly and like to tell you categorically that my country, which is a small one as far as territory is concerned, but which is a large one as far as our aspirations of our people and as far as the love that we have for the principles of justice and of liberty, shares your aspirations and shares your ideals and will be today, as we have been yesterday and will be tomorrow, completely with you in following the enlightened policies that you are setting forward and pursuing for the good, not only of the people of the United States but for all mankind.

I was especially pleased to hear your references to education. I heard your words with a great deal of pleasure because I myself am an educator and have believed for all my life that education should be the basic principle sought after for the happiness of the life of our people. For many years I have struggled first as a grade school teacher, then as a high school teacher, a university professor, and a minister of education, struggled to obtain for education first place, preferential place, in our national budget.

I am delighted to be able to see that I finally achieved that goal, because in the budget for 1966 education occupies the first place in our budget followed closely by the fight against problems affecting the health of our people to which you have also made reference and to which I think a great deal of effort should be devoted.

And, Mr. President, I would like to make reference here, since I am speaking from this position that we have achieved of giving education such a primary boost in our budget, that we have been able to do this with the very, very generous help that we have received from the United States, not only in the field of technical assistance but also economically through grants and through loans that we characterize as soft loans because of their long-term and because of the low interest rates that they bear.

President Johnson, I don't want to abuse any more of your kindness in receiving me here and in the kindness of the people that are together at this ceremony and especially of your lovely wife, because of the hot sun that is burning down on all of us, that is burning our faces and making people uncomfortable, but I must, as a good Nicaraguan and a son of the land of Ruben Dario, make use of this literary reference here to the sun and say as Chief Executive of Nicaragua that the sun that is now burning on our faces is also the sun that can be compared with the way your actions are illuminating the world, with the sun that is inspiring you to greater efforts to solve problems and encouraging people in all latitudes of this globe to uphold the principles of the dignity of man, the principles of freedom, and the principles of justice, the principles that you as a leader of the Government of the United States have always defended so well and are developing them also as a great leader of our own Western Hemisphere.

Because we all recognize the work that you have done in the development of these ideals and principles of our hemisphere and also developing ideals shared by other like-minded people throughout the world, because of your work in the struggle that you are engaged in in South Vietnam, I pay tribute to you because I consider that this is where the borders of the United States really are. Ideological borders of a country go far beyond any geographical borders. They go as far as the aspiration of a people will take them.

And before concluding, and again I ask your indulgence for having abused the generosity of the people who are standing here today, I would like to pay a special thanks to you for the tribute that you have rendered to my country in this military review and I want to express my great appreciation because the highest symbol of your nationhood, your flag, greeted me and the members of my party as representatives of the people and the Government of Nicaragua in whose name I again express my thanks.

I would like to tell you that we will be solidly with you because we are a peace-loving people and lovers of justice and of freedom. We will express and maintain solidarity with you now and throughout the years to come. You can count on us. You can count on the solidarity of the countries of Latin America and especially of our own neighbors in Central America and, of course, of our own Nicaragua, because we share your aspirations, we share your efforts, we share your desire for finding peace in this world.

Finally, Mr. President, you said that some representatives of your Government were going to come and exchange ideas with me. I expect to learn a great deal from them. I don't think they will learn that much from me, because I have little experience, but I do have a heart that is full of love for freedom, for justice, and for the reign of law.

Finally, I would like to express my thanks to the generous tribute that has been rendered to us by this great country, a tribute rendered for our own very small country which, however, spiritually feels on a par with this country of yours.

Thank you very much.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks of Welcome to President Schick of Nicaragua on the South Lawn at the White House Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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