Richard Nixon photo

Remarks of Welcome at the White House to Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia

July 08, 1969

Your Majesty, Your Excellencies, and our friends here in the White House:

Your Majesty, this historic house has witnessed many historic occasions, but as all of our guests here today I am sure will agree, and as those who are listening on television and radio will understand, no visit to this house has a greater historical significance than your visit to the White House again.

First, because in all the world today you, as Chief of State, have served longer--53 years--than any Chief of State in the world, and we honor you for that.

Second, because I am the fourth President of the United States to have the honor of receiving you here in the White House as an official state visitor. In the whole history of the United States, over 190 years, this has not been the case with any official visitor. You broke the record with four Presidents today.

Third, because you are the first visitor, official visitor, to this country since my inauguration as President of the United States from the great continent of Africa, to which you have offered such outstanding leadership.

For these reasons we honor you today, and also for others that I will mention briefly.

We honor you because of the personal leadership that you have provided for your country, an ancient land, a proud people, but one which under your leadership has moved forward in the field of economic and social progress dramatically in these last years.

Second, because in this great continent of Africa, a very old continent with many new nations, you have provided the counsel and the guidance and the leadership to the new nations, to the new leaders, which was so essential, and also the example for unity, unity which transcends differences in the continent. The fact that the Organization of African Unity is in your capital city is an indication of that leadership.

But finally, to all of us who are here, those of us who go back a few years, we welcome you as one who appealed to and inspired the whole conscience of the world in 1936, when you, standing virtually alone, spoke out against aggressive totalitarianism; and as a result of speaking out, you gave an example, an example which should have been followed then, but an example which today, historians will recall, provided inspiration to leaders and people throughout the world.

As we look back over your life, as we look back over your leadership, we can truly say that no chief of state or head of government can be welcomed to the United States of America who really touches our hearts more than you touch our hearts, because you stand for those great principles, principles of independence, principles of national dignity, principles of unity which transcend differences between nations.

You stand for those principles and have stood for them through the years, in difficult years, as well as those in which you have had perhaps a better opportunity than in times past.

So today we welcome you. We regret that our weather last night was difficult so that you were unable to be received by the great throngs who wanted to welcome you if we could have had this ceremony outside. But I can assure you that small though our numbers may be because of the restrictions of this room, that the hearts of all Americans--200 million Americans--are full with respect as you return again to this country, and we look forward to our conversations with you and we wish you good health.

We wish you, also, a good visit here, and we wish you the very best for the years of leadership which we know you will provide, not only to your nation, not only to your continent, but to those who cherish and honor freedom throughout the world.

Note: The President spoke at 10:29 a.m. in the East Room at the White House following a formal welcome with full military honors for His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I at the North Portico. The arrival had been scheduled for the preceding afternoon but was delayed by inclement weather.

See also Items 259 and 260.

His Imperial Majesty spoke in Amharic and his remarks were translated from notes by Ambassador Minasse Haile of Ethiopia. His Imperial Majesy responded as follows:

Your Excellency, President Nixon, ladies and gentlemen:

Mr. President, first of all I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for the most kind words you have uttered about my country and myself.

I also wish to take this opportunity to thank you for extending an invitation for me to come and visit the United States of America once more. I hope in my brief sojourn to this country I will have the opportunity of renewing old acquaintances as well as making new friends.

As you have said, Mr. President, the relations between the United States and Ethiopia are not new ones. We have, for many decades, maintained the most friendly relations. We have manifested this friendship not merely by words, but in terms of specific, concrete, and joint efforts and sacrifices we have made.

Our friendship has been based on certain solid common interests which, as time goes on, rather than being weakened are strengthening themselves each day.

Mr. President, I am happy today to be here, particularly to meet you again in your own country. I have vivid recollections of your visit to Ethiopia and the extensive exchange of views we have had concerning the bilateral relations between the United States and Ethiopia, as well as multilateral relations and questions affecting international peace and security.

I am glad that my arrival here in the United States yesterday is affording me another opportunity to exchange views with you, Mr. President, with a view toward strengthening further the good and friendly relations that have long remained as the basis of the relations between Ethiopia and the United States.

I also wish to emphasize that the friendship between our two countries has not been solely confined to relations between us, such as my visit here or President Nixon's visit to Ethiopia; but many people in different walks of life, both from Ethiopia as well as from the United States, visit each other's country, and we consider this to be indispensable in strengthening already existing friendly ties.

Mr. President, you have mentioned African problems. You have mentioned the Organization of African Unity, an organization which the people of our vast continent have established with a view to performing certain specific tasks.

Briefly speaking, the Organization is established for the purpose of protecting in a better fashion the independence of African states. It is also meant to expedite the economic and social progress through cooperation of African peoples.

It also has the important task of assisting in the maintenance of international peace and security. Because this very principle for which that Organization is established is in accord with the basic policy of the Government of the United States, the Organization has had ample support on the part of the people and Government of this country.

I hope that in the time to come the United States Government and people would find it possible to come to even a greater assistance of that Organization, for the principles for which it stands are of universal value and never changing ones.

Mr. President, I hope, as I see it, as a result of my visit and exchange of views I will have the pleasure of having with you, the relations between our two countries will be strengthened further.

In this time of a fast changing world, where new things come about and so forth, it is essential for leaders to come together to exchange and consider views to see by what joint effort they will be able to strengthen that relation.

I hope that as a result of the broad general understanding we are going to arrive at during my visit here, our understanding will be reflected in the kind of policy that will follow and the kind of consideration and attitude we will have regarding each other's vital problems.

I hope in broad terms, as I see it, the good relation between our two countries will be further broadened, not to the exclusive advantage of one party, but with a view toward bringing forth mutual benefits and mutual advantage.

I wish to thank you again, Mr. President, for the very kind words you have said. I also wish to thank the people and the Government of the United States for giving me such a cordial reception.

Thank you very much.

Richard Nixon, Remarks of Welcome at the White House to Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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