Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's Toast at a Luncheon in Honor of Crown Prince Vong Savang of Laos

November 09, 1967

Your Royal Highness, Mrs. Humphrey, Secretary and Mrs. Rusk, ladies and gentlemen:

We welcome His Royal Highness and his lovely lady as newcomers to our country. Mrs. Johnson and I are very pleased that you will be able to see something of America and its people in the few days that you will be in our land.

I know, of course, of your interest in sports and that you are to attend one of our football games. We all enjoy college football in this country. It is a great spectacle, but I am not sure that it gives an accurate picture of what America is really like.

I was observing to the Secretary of State earlier in the day what Knute Rockne was supposed to have said one time, when four or five of his best football stars were not performing as he had expected. He dashed out on the field and said, "If you four fellows would get out of the way, the other six will go over for a touchdown."

Sometimes after I read some of the Senate debates, I think of Rockne's story about football.

But when you go out to one of our football games, Your Royal Highness, and you see our best educated boys spending the entire afternoon or evening knocking each other down, while thousands and thousands are there in the stadium cheering, it hardly gives a picture of a peace-loving nation.

But I don't worry because I know there is a proverb in your country which says: "When one has heard, one should then see; and when one has seen, one should judge with his own heart."

Judge our people, then, Your Highness, with your heart, and if you do, I think you will find friends here.

America admires the steady progress that your nation is making. We applaud and support your people's struggle to win a better life. Last year the Mekong River flooded much of the rice in your land. This year drought has cut down your crops, as you were telling me earlier today. But man, and not nature, is the greater enemy in Laos.

For almost half of your entire lifetime, you have battled the invaders from North Vietnam. Some 40,000 of them, by the present estimates.

Yes, the struggle has been costly. You have paid a price not only in lives, but in other resources that are vital to your nation's future.

Your Prime Minister told the United Nations only a few days ago, and I quote him, "If the war in Laos is forgotten by the press at large, it nonetheless continues to ravage my country."

But your people have not waited for the end of war to begin the work of peace. I should like you to know, Your Royal Highness, neither have we.

In April 1965, speaking at the great Johns Hopkins University, and to the Nation by television, I explained why America fights today in Vietnam. I emphasized the final victory we all seek in Asia, the triumph that will open a new life for man, a brighter and a richer life than he has ever known before.

I spoke of the blessings that would flow to millions if we could, together, harness the wild Mekong. This mighty waterway, longer than the Mississippi River in our own country, is a real life stream of Southeast Asia. Its waters have the power to build peaceful and prosperous nations in that area of the world. They could generate new hope for all of the people of Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, and South Vietnam and, yes, if they were only willing, for the people of North Vietnam, too.

Since my Johns Hopkins address in 1965, sir, America has committed itself to build the dams that will harness this power for the benefit of your proud people. Like you, we fight and pray for the day that peace may come to that area of the world and our men can return to their homes here. It will be a day when all the nations of Southeast Asia channel the energies of war into the labors of love, into the miracles of joint achievement.

So, Your Royal Highness, this is the spirit of our people. I think you will find it everywhere you go--when you have heard, when you have seen, and when you have judged us with your own heart.

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask those of you who have come from throughout our land to meet His Royal Highness and his lovely lady here today to join me now in a toast to the father of our distinguished guest, His Majesty, the King of Laos.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 2:27 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Crown Prince Vong Savang, Mrs. Hubert H. Humphrey, wife of the Vice President, and Secretary of State and Mrs. Dean Rusk.

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

Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's Toast at a Luncheon in Honor of Crown Prince Vong Savang of Laos Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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