Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks of Welcome at the White House to President Yameogo of Upper Volta

March 29, 1965

Mr. President:

For myself and Mrs. Johnson--and for the people of the United States--I am proud to extend to you and your wife our warmest and most cordial welcome to this country and to this Capital.

We are particularly pleased that you come today as the first state visitor to Washington since our inauguration earlier this year.

The United States has--and is proud to have--strong and friendly ties with many peoples and many nations on every continent. But we are especially gratified by the growth of such relations with your continent-and with your country.

In these last two decades, independence has come for more than 1 billion people in 54 countries. Nowhere has this revolution of national independence had greater impact than in Africa. We are mindful, Mr. President, that less than 200 years ago our own forebears in America chose the course that you, and your generation, have chosen in these times.

Mr. President, here in America we understand what is in your heart--and the hearts of your countrymen--when you say, as you did recently: "If we wish to get along with and have relations with all nations, respecting their ideologies, we intend also and above all to evolve without interference."

History and fortune have smiled upon the United States. We are privileged to have great strength. But we believe that our strength means little unless we use it toward the end of assuring peoples who choose freedom the fight to live without interference from neighbors or adversaries.

This has been always a commitment of our people.

As a great President, whom I know you admire, Abraham Lincoln, once said of our Declaration of Independence: "It . . . gave promise that in due time the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and all should have an equal chance."

In America today, this generation of Americans is determined to fulfill that ideal by all that we do in the world and by all that we do here at home.

For all the long history of man, there have been injustices, there has been oppression, there has been evil. Today--in these times--we intend that these forces shall find not only their match but their master in the strength of our American Nation and in the moral resolve of our American people.

Mr. President, we invite and welcome the attention of all nations--young and old--to the agenda of the Congress of the United States. Our concerns are many; our responsibilities are great. But this week and this session, the American Congress is devoting itself to taking up the challenge of those ancient enemies of all mankind--ignorance, poverty, disease, and discrimination.

And, Mr. President, I want you to know that we are determined as a people to prevail against these foes.

You, Mr. President, are committed deeply to economic progress to improve the lives of your people. You seek with neighboring states realistic means of cooperation to promote mutual welfare. You have steadfastly and wisely denied comfort to those who would subvert the hard-won freedom of your continent.

These are aims which the American people support, too.

We of this land covet no empire, we seek no dominion anywhere in the world. We seek as you seek an Africa of strong and prosperous nations living at peace with their neighbors, free to choose their own .paths of progress.

To you, Mr. President, to your people, to all the peoples of Africa, the United States reaffirms its good will, its friendly support, and its resolute determination to stand with you in your struggle for human progress.

Note: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House, where President Maurice Yameogo was given a formal welcome with full military honors. President Yameogo responded as follows:

"Mr. President:

"It was in Dakar that I had for the first time the honor of meeting you and we remember the time when you also met Africa, the impression which you produced on all the chiefs of state assembled there. The strong impression you gave them has been confirmed and justified today by the responsibilities you have taken.

"This being said, Mr. President, I would like to express the very great happiness, the very great honor which I would like to direct to both the people of the United States and yourself for being here, your guest for a few days. I am also very happy to express to the First Lady of the United States our admiration for her dynamic and sincere personality, the admiration expressed by my wife in the name of all the women in Upper Volta.

"Better than any official contact, it is a direct contact which testifies to the truth because it allows friendship to really blossom in direct action.

"It might seem strange and even somewhat unreal that this gigantic country--one of the best equipped in the world, without the slightest doubt--might have anything in common with the Upper Volta, so small in comparison. However, all men who think, Mr. President, know and understand that the United States and Upper Volta do have an interest in common, do have something in common, and that is a desire and love for freedom, a desire to see men raised toward light, a desire to see a world free from hatred. That type of community is the most important thing.

"Mr. President, this is a struggle, this is a fight which we have to wage again and again every day. But all those who have always opposed hope to despair, hope to injustice, know, Mr. President, that you are in the struggle the strongest man, the best leader, a man of the size which is needed for someone who presides over the destinies and responsibilities of the United States.

"That is why, Mr. President, I am so honored to be the first chief of state of Africa to be received here by you. And it is also, Mr. President, because I would like to express the hope that the Upper Volta and all of the countries of the third world can use the experience, an experience often difficult, to institute with you a dialog which will be full of interest and also full of construction. Because no one ignores, Mr. President, the part played by the United States in building in the world a balance and equilibrium, and no one ignores either the fact that things may appear differently from various points of view.

"My presence here, Mr. President, I believe proves that the people of the United States--the United States intends to face its responsibilities to the fullest measure-

"Mr. president, in coming here I feel we know you already. We know you and we have understood you particularly well since your recent speech before a joint session of Congress which we have distributed very widely in our African press. This, together with everything else, has made us understand how strongly you fight for mankind, for justice. And it is in the name of all of the chiefs of state of Africa, all those among them who love freedom and justice, that I would like to express my admiration, because we have a common fatherland, an Africa of freedom and of justice.

"Mr. President, I must now speak to you about my country, the Upper Volta. Our country is perhaps in the very center, at the very crossroads, of western Africa. It borders on six different countries and therefore it may have to face various types of evolutions. It must be always able to face them, precisely because, being a small nation of only 5 million inhabitants, it is also a nation which has made a choice which defines it.

"This choice, Mr. President, was made at the time when we acceded to independence on August 5, 1960, and the choice is that of fighting always for freedom, of standing always for the dignity of man-of standing, in other words, for the things for which you stand in this country, Mr. President. And if we have to follow this road, a road which is often difficult, it is a road also which makes those who follow it feel proud of themselves.

"As we follow this road we have found the friendship of the United States. It is a friendship which makes us proud. It makes us proud because not only do we trust it, but because we trust the future we trust ourselves. That is why I would like to express to you, Mr. President, my conviction that our two countries will strengthen their ties of cooperation, the ties of their friendship. Long live the United States of America."

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks of Welcome at the White House to President Yameogo of Upper Volta Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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