Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks of Welcome to the Chiefs of Mission of the Diplomatic Corps

December 13, 1963

Your Excellencies:

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you again to this house.

As you know, the President of the United States bears, under our Constitution, a very direct and immediate responsibility for the conduct of all of our foreign affairs. Therefore, I come to you today to speak to you as a working colleague.

We live at a time when foreign affairs go beyond their traditional scope; they now have strong new ties with the domestic life of each of our countries.

These new ties come as a result of modern communications which bring instantly to the homes of the citizens of every country events from around the world; they come from modern weapons which can make the threat of war anywhere a life and death issue for every nation; and from the fact that we are all engaged in vast historical changes which are reshaping the political life of the planet.

I have in mind the change from the colonial era to an era when scores of new nations claim new responsibilities on the world scene. The change from traditional ways to modern societies which bring to their peoples all the advantages of modern science and technology. The change in Western Europe, and Japan, and elsewhere from a heavy postwar dependence upon the United States to now one of partnership in the great affairs of the planet. A role which their traditions and history demand and their resources permit. And a change, that we hope, from dangerous cold war to a more stable and a more peaceful world.

None of these changes is automatic. All will take time. All can be upset. All can bring threats to peace. None will succeed if we do not accept the fact of our profound interdependence--an interdependence that's made tragically and humanly real to us all by the death of President Kennedy.

And right here now I want to tell all of you, on behalf of all of the American people, how deeply touched we have been by the flood of expressions of sympathy which have poured in on us--from Kings and Presidents, from Parliaments and citizens throughout the world. It is clear that President Kennedy, by his work and by his acts, became a symbol of hope and a promise of progress, progress for freedom, and peace, and a better life for all. As we face the day-to-day tasks before us, this outpouring of sympathy will be to us a renewed dedication. All of us have our parts to play, to make these great historical changes take place in a setting of peace. We must talk to one another with candor. We must try to understand what the other man's problems are--and communicate that understanding to each other and do it with integrity. We must be alert to the points of danger, but we must be equally alert for the points of common interest. In great matters and in small matters, we must move forward together. There is no other way for us all, on this small planet.

So I welcome you. I am delighted to greet you all, as messengers of understanding, and to tell each of you and through you, your people, that we in this country will go our full share of the way toward peace, and toward good will, and toward progress.

History will remember how we lived here and what we did here. And the great challenge to you is the challenge that I face and all responsible leaders of the world face in this hour. Our achievements in science are many and varied. Our social progress is great. The improvements in man's life are many. But we still, each of us in our own respective land, all face the one challenge of our time, the one great problem for us all. And unless we can, working together, trusting each other, believing in the brotherhood of man, unless we can find the answer to that problem, then all will have been in vain.

And what is that problem? It's not the problem of missiles or satellites or conquering armies or education for our children or even improved health. The one uppermost problem is first how can we live in this world with each other, together, without living like savages or criminals or murderers or without taking the lives of each other.

I want you to know when you return to your home as the spokesman of your people that my people want to go down any road that leads to peace; that to you and your country and your people, any of them who want our cooperation, they must know that we welcome it; that they will find our agreements honorable; that we are constantly going down this road and that road and yonder road searching for the answer of how to live peaceably together.

And we believe that you have the same problem and together we share the responsibility for finding the answer. So that when we are gone, those who point to the period of our work and say, "What did he do? What did he leave us?" they can say, "He left us with the answer on how to live together. And the tensions have been relieved, the strains that once existed are not there, and new confidence is abroad and new hope is there." And ultimately by following the Golden Rule, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, putting yourself in the other man's position, trying to understand the problems that confront him as well as to solve the problems that confront you, together as human beings we can find a better, and a richer, and a fuller life for all humanity whatever spot on the globe they occupy.

Yours is a noble calling and you are engaged in a great adventure, one of trying to find the answer of how to live together. And with the help of God and the diligence of each of us, maybe during our time we will find that answer and then what a wonderful world it will be for all of us.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at noon in the State Dining Room at the White House. Dr. Guillermo Sevilla-Sacasa, Ambassador to the United States from Nicaragua and dean of the diplomatic corps, responded as follows:

"Mr. President:

"On behalf of the chiefs of the diplomatic missions, it is an honor and a privilege for me to tell you how pleased we were to receive your kind invitation to meet here this afternoon. We are deeply grateful for your hospitality. We are honored by your cordial welcome and our duties are enhanced by the fact that you refer to yourself as our colleague.

"In allying your own work with ours, you not only exemplify modern statesmanship, but you also make evident your high ideals and the excellent capabilities you possess, thus justifying the high concept in which you are held in your country and all over the world.

"The position that you take gratifies us, because we know that fellowship gives rise to the most satisfactory relations, and that through this fellowship we shall be able to reach our common goals.

"Indeed, history has changed the nature of foreign relations, and they are now an integral part of the domestic life of our countries. That you yourself have noted this change is to your credit. We understand the way in which diplomacy has evolved over centuries; and the principles of international peace and harmony are based on that understanding. Modern diplomacy does not deprive the diplomat of his personal heritage as a man of integrity. The shrewdness of yesteryear has now been replaced by good faith and gentlemanly behavior. The diplomat knows that the essential object of his ministry is to cultivate harmony between nations, to conciliate their opposing interests, to prevent conflicts, and to work for the security of universal freedom and peace.

"In the past, diplomatic law was based on the concept of divine right; today, it is based on the principle of the sovereignty of the people. The modern diplomat must facilitate international relations, and, without neglecting the interests of his own country, contribute to the progress of humanity.

"The old-fashioned diplomat was perhaps a fawning courtier; present-day circumstances and the evolution of diplomacy require that the modern diplomat be an honorable person, who represents the culture of the state that accredits him abroad.

"I am sure that the nations here represented share the ideal that you expressed in your warm message this historic afternoon. Just as we shall be alert to dangerous situations, we shall join you in the aim to bring about understanding of the problems of our people. We commend you for the significance of your message. We applaud the clear meaning of your reasoning. Time will surely confirm it. Your words are sure to have the support of the people who love peace and venerate freedom.

"This meeting, taking place under the same roof that sheltered the noble figure of President Kennedy, is, even in this atmosphere of sorrow and mourning caused by his departure, an important occasion, because it sets the guidelines for an enduring venture.

"In thanking you once again for your invitation, we extend our heartfelt wishes for your personal happiness and that of your worthy spouse, Mrs. Johnson, your faithful companion, who loyally shares your generous endeavors; for the well-being of your children, who are your pride and joy; sincere wishes, Mr. President, for the increasing prosperity of your great country, for the continued success of your illustrious Government, and that your good intentions may always find an echo in the farthest reaches of the world."

Excerpts of the President's remarks were released by the White House. The complete text is printed above as transcribed from a tape recording.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks of Welcome to the Chiefs of Mission of the Diplomatic Corps Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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