John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Welcome to President Sukarno of Indonesia at Andrews Air Force Base

April 24, 1961

I want to take this opportunity to welcome the President of the Republic of Indonesia. His country has always held the imagination of the people of the United States. Near to my own city of Boston--the town of Salem--its seal is a ship and the words are "To the farthest island of the Indies." From the beginning of our country, from the first voyage of Columbus, which was intended to reach his country, down through the 18th century and the 19th century, his country has attracted the youngest and the bravest of our countrymen who have sailed to these islands.

We have, however, an even greater interest in his country today, and it is a source of satisfaction to me that the United States played, I think, a useful and helpful role in the early days when his country was first becoming established.

We wish that the relations between his country and the United States should be intimate and close. We seek for our country what he seeks for his country--a better life for his people, a life of independence, a life of security.

I am particularly glad also to welcome him here because he is in a very real sense the father of his country. Throughout his life he has devoted himself to the independence of his country. He occupies the unique role in the life of his country and his people that was occupied by the early founders of this country. And therefore, in welcoming him once again to the shores of the United States, we welcome a distinguished national leader, father of his country, and a leader in the world.

Therefore, Mr. President, it is a great honor for me to welcome you here to the United States and to tell you that the people of this country are happy to have you here again.

Note: President Sukarno responded as follows:

Mr. President, I am happy to be on American soil again for the fifth time. I think America is the only country in the world which I have visited so often, of course for certain reasons.

When I came here the first time in 1956, in my speech I said that I had come to see for myself the center of an idea. And 2 years ago in Los Angeles I said, "This time I come to the United States to see for myself one of the centers of action."

The United States occupies a very distinguished part, a very .distinguished place, in the hearts of the Indonesian people. And really I am very grateful to the President of the United States, President Kennedy, that he has invited me to call on Washington to see him, to have talks with him.

President Kennedy called me 2 minutes ago the father of the Indonesian Nation, and it is to my opinion not true. I am not the father of the Indonesian Nation. I am just a small mouthpiece of the Indonesian Nation. I express the aspirations, the longings, the wishes of the Indonesian Nation. I am not the father of the Indonesian Nation. Without my nation I am nothing. Without my nation, I am just the man next door. But, yes, I have together with my nation, struggled for freedom, and I am now working hard, together with my nation, for the establishment of a just and prosperous society in Indonesia, and for peace in the world, for cooperation amongst nations in the world.

And it is my vivid hope that America and Indonesia shall always be close friends.

Thank you, Mr. President, for the invitation to come, and my best wishes for you, for the prosperity of the American Nation.
Thank you.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Welcome to President Sukarno of Indonesia at Andrews Air Force Base Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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