John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Welcome to the Shah and the Empress of Iran at the Washington National Airport

April 11, 1962

Your Majesties:

I speak on behalf of all of my fellow Americans in welcoming you to the United States. We regard your visit here as most valuable to our country, and I hope the cause of freedom and peace.

I have said on other occasions, Your Majesty, that I thought the strongest force in the world today was the desire for national independence, reaching well beyond any ideology or really any national power.

I do not think the history of any country proves that more clearly than the history of Iran. All of us are familiar with the centuries-long struggle, beginning in the centuries before the birth of Christ, of the people of Persia to maintain their national sovereignty. Occupying as you do in Iran a most important strategic area, surrounded as you are by vital and powerful people, your country has been able to maintain its national independence century after century, until we come to the present date where under great challenges you, Your Majesty, lead that historic fight.

We look, in welcoming you here, not only to the past but also to the future--your great desire, evidenced by the work that you have so intensively carried out, to make a better life for your people, to permit them to share in a more fruitful existence, to permit them to be free. And therefore, Your Majesty, on your shoulders hang heavy burdens and heavy responsibilities.

We are glad that you have come halfway around the world, and that from your ancient country you come to this young country in the New World. The interest of both of us is the same: to maintain our freedom, to maintain the peace, and to provide a better life for our people. That is the purpose of your visit, Your Majesty, as to how we can jointly concert that effort.

And we are particularly glad to welcome to this country, I believe for the first time, your wife--whom we are particularly glad to have here on this occasion.

This is one of our wonderful spring days, for which we are justly celebrated, and we are glad to wish you and send to you the greetings of the city and the country.

Note: The Shah responded as follows:

It is a most pleasant opportunity for the Empress and myself to be able, thanks to your very kind invitation, to visit your great and beautiful country.

Today the name of America has a magic meaning for the most distant communities of the world. It is associated with freedom, progress, love of humanity, and justice. As I am well acquainted with your country and your gallant countrymen, I can truly endorse this conviction.

I am glad that my present visit gives me the occasion to meet you and to greet Mrs. Kennedy, whose stop in our capital was only too brief.

I am aware, Mr. President, that you have assumed responsibilities in the greatest country of the world with new ideas and a dynamic personality which will prove of utmost importance in the shaping of a new world.

I bring with me the heartfelt greetings of my countrymen to your people, with the expression of their sincerest feelings of friendship.

And I extend to you, Mr. President, my warm wishes for the happiness and prosperity of your great and noble nation.

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

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