Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's Toast at a Dinner Honoring Prime Minister Lee

October 17, 1967

Prime Minister and Mrs. Lee, Mr. Secretary of State, Mr. Secretary of Defense, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Our guest this evening represents a very small nation--whose influence in the world belies its size.

He represents a new nation whose people are endowed with 4,000 years of Chinese civilization.

He is, as you observe, a young man. But he has already earned a formidable reputation as a lawyer, thinker, legislator, and party leader; as the architect of his nation's future; as a spokesman for his new generation in a New Asia.

He also has earned another reputation. He presently is rated as the best golfer among all the prime ministers and presidents of the world. It takes nothing from his skill if I add--by way of personal testimony--that the competition in that league leaves something to be desired.

In short, Prime Minister Lee is what Asian philosophy would call a "superior man"-a man who is not confined to an ivory tower--who combines thought and action in a full and devoted life of public service.

Confucius himself set that pattern. He was once asked to define wisdom, and he answered, "It is to attend to the welfare of the people."

Our guest has attended to his people's welfare. It was not easy. In so doing, he fought the people's battles for 12 long, hard years and brought them the only victories worth taking from any battlefield.

--So Singapore tonight enjoys the second highest living standard in all of Asia.

--A new housing unit is built every 45 minutes.

--An ambitious welfare program embraces new schools and community centers.

--A pioneering educational television system has just been launched. From that we expect to learn much ourselves.

--The different races of Singapore have found brotherhood and nationhood in shared achievement. They are proud of themselves and most of all, they are proud of their government. And they should be.

--Prime Minister Lee's administration is one of the most honest, efficient, and successful in Asia. What Singapore has accomplished can be done, we think, by almost any nation on earth--that is, if its people have the will to achieve what their dreams demand.

Singapore has yet to realize all of its dreams. But it has put nightmare behind. Our guest summed it up just a few weeks ago in a speech he made in England when he said:

"We are one of a few places in Asia where there are no beggars, where nobody, old or young, dies of neglect or starvation. They are modest achievements but nonetheless precious to us."

Then the Prime Minister looked a little farther into "the different world of the 1970's" as he expressed it. He voiced the central hope--and I quote from him now-that "American patience and prudence in Vietnam could leave us in peace, to improve on the small advances we have made to civilized living in a turbulent part of the world."

This morning, here on the White House lawn, after we had greeted him, he repeated his convictions and his hopes. He said--and I quote--that only "patience and prudence, resolution and restraint will see the world through." And he put a question then to our people in America. He said: "Do enough Americans believe that their progeny will inherit this brave new world that they have built, unless they make the effort now?"

Well, that is the vital question that concerns us. Part of the answer is being given tonight by our brave men in Vietnam. Ann other part lies in the hearts of our people here at home.

I believe I know the answer and I think I can tell you that answer is "yes." America has the resolution, I believe, and it has the restraint to see this struggle through in Vietnam.

I cannot put it more clearly or with more confidence. Mr. Prime Minister, you have a phrase in your part of the world that puts our determination very well, I think. You call it "riding the tiger." You rode the tiger. We shall.

Mr. Prime Minister, we are friends of today's free Asia. We so much want it to flourish. We offer it the hand of friendship, of partnership, and--we hope--of peace.

We are fighting tonight to secure the future of the new Asia. For its future--free, independent, increasingly prosperous--will play a very large part in our own future. Our interest and our friendship in Asia will remain long after the guns have fallen silent. That is our promise to you; that is our promise to ourselves. No aggressor is ever going to break it. No nearsighted critic can obscure it.

We rest our welcome to you tonight, sir, on that pledge of our enduring purpose and responsibility.

So to those few guests here this evening, I ask you to join me in a toast to a bright symbol of the common future his Excellency, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore and his gracious wife.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 10:04 p.m. at a dinner in the Family Dining Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Prime Minister and Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara.

As printed above, this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.

Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's Toast at a Dinner Honoring Prime Minister Lee Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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