Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and Chancellor Erhard

June 12, 1964

Mr. Chancellor, Mr. Ambassador, ladies and gentlemen:

We are pleased tonight to welcome again a good friend who comes representing not one but two valued allies of the United States. I refer, of course, to the Federal Republic of Germany and to Harvard University.

Our guest is one of the few men in public life whose title, Doctor, was earned academically long before it was conferred by honorary degree.

Dr. Erhard, all Americans join in congratulating you upon the richly deserved honor that you have received and we are grateful that you honor us as our guest in this garden this evening. When the Chancellor was last in the United States, I expressed to him the hope that the dose relationship and the healthy friendship between our countries would grow in strength and in meaning. I am proud to say tonight that that hope has been the reality of the intervening half year.

It is evident to us that the relations between our countries have never been better than at this time tonight. Our understanding is deepening, our cooperation is broadening, our hopes for the future are rising. We have come forward together, your country and mine, along the path of insuring freedom and security in a world where both are constantly threatened.

German effort and foresight and determination and dedication along with those of our allies in Western Europe have made it possible to convert age-old rivalries into new and constructive relationships. Tonight our hopes rise from this foundation, the only real foundation that can support and sustain them, the foundation of strength.

We of the United States of America value highly this relationship with the Federal Republic of Germany. The ties between the people of America and the people of Germany are many and close. From the dark days of our Valley Forge to the bright age of mankind's exploration of space the cause of freedom has prospered when the peoples of our two countries have worked together in peace. Tonight we are working together as allies in NATO, tonight we are working together as friends in freedom, and tonight we are working together as partners in peace.

The road ahead is hard but hopeful. I have no doubt that Germany and the United States will continue to move along that road together surmounting the obstacles and serving the opportunities that we encounter together along that way. Our goal and our purpose is peace; peace with honor, peace with justice, peace under freedom. We shall not rest until that day is reached and until that dream is real. We seek to move only on a course of peace and justice, never a course of fear or hostility.

Together with our allies we shall work to open new avenues of trade and we shall work to build new bridges of ideas toward the East, to improve relations, to lessen tensions, to enhance the prospect of all of us living in this world in peace.

As we all recognize, there can be no real and lasting peace in Europe, or in the rest of the world for that matter, until Germany is united, united by self-determination in peace and in freedom. This can be done, and the people of the United States are determined that it shall be done to end the inequities and injustices of the division of the German people--until there is a unified Germany. Only the representative and democratic government of the Federal Republic of Germany can speak for the German people.

It is a very great honor and a very proud privilege, Mr. Chancellor, to have you in our midst this evening. The scene is a little different from our last meeting, the friendship is a little stronger.

I ask those of my friends who have come here this evening and our distinguished guests to join me in raising your glasses to the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, to the friendship between the people of the United States and all the people of Germany always.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a state dinner in the Rose Garden at the White House. Chancellor Erhard responded as follows:

"Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

"First of all let me express my gratitude for the congratulations which you expressed to me on the occasion of the honor which was bestowed upon me yesterday when I was granted an honorary doctor's degree at Harvard. This in itself would be sufficient to make me very happy, very proud indeed.

"But I was even more happy about this distinction and that honor because it afforded me an opportunity to come over again to the United States of America and to meet with you, Mr. President, and to have new talks with you, exchange of views, exchange of hopes, exchange of worries and problems.

"Some people said after our meeting in Texas at the end of last year that was, so to speak, the honeymoon between the two of us and they raised a warning voice saying, 'Well, let's wait until this period of the honeymoon is over; now everything is pleasant, everything is beautiful, but then they will be faced with the rough realities.'

"I think the honeymoon is over now and today we have reached, if I may put it this way, the state of marriage, but based on trust, on faithfulness. I think these are the pillars of this relationship between the two of us.

"Though our talks dealt with a number of very serious problems, Mr. President, today I had the impression that our personal friendship had deepened and was strengthened over the last 6 months. And if I speak of the personal relationship between the two of us, I would add that I am inclined to apply that also to the relationship between our two countries, our two nations.

"As I look back over the period since I have been in political office, that means since the end of the last war, I think it was at that time unique, unique and unparalleled in world history, that the victor who had gained unimaginable strength and power through his victory showed such great generosity by helping all the countries of the world, including the vanquished, to reconstruct their countries. This was, as I said, Mr. President, a unique and unparalleled contribution. In this way you helped to secure the peace in the world.

"I said to you this morning, Mr. President, when we had our conversation, I understood that your feelings were a bit bitter about the fact that so little gratitude was shown by the countries for what the United States has done after the last war. But such is human nature, one cannot expect gratefulness, and what one has received in the way of good deeds is very easily forgotten. But I am all. the more happy and pleased, Mr. President, to be able to say that these things are not forgotten in Germany. The German people will always remember what they have received from the United States of America, and this I feel is the basis of the friendship that exists between our two countries. That is the basis, the foundation, of the trust and confidence which enables genuine cooperation.

"I think we have all the essential objectives in common; and even if there should be some misunderstanding, some differences from time to time, I think there can be no doubt whatsoever, neither here in the United States nor in the Federal Republic of Germany, that this friendship between our two countries is a firm one, that there is also this conviction that we have common tasks and common missions to fulfill. I am not so presumptuous to say that Germany could speak for Europe, but on the other hand I feel that the Federal Republic of Germany can be, must be the stabilizing factor, the stabilizing element, in Europe.

"By our attitude we can show how necessary, how desirable it is for Europe to come closer to the United States and also to try and tie the United States of America, or let me put it this way, the North American Continent more closely to Europe. This I feel is our common fate and our common destiny.

"We do not want to divide and to split up the world amongst ourselves, but though we ourselves in Germany, in our country, experience this tragic division and whatever it means, we want to make a contribution to overcome all these difficulties.

"I hope, I am sure we will succeed--what we have in common is this hope on behalf and for all the world. Today we are trying to make our contribution to these common objectives. We feel this responsibility for the countries which are still in a somewhat backward and underdeveloped stage, or countries which still have to live in slavery.

On the other hand, we are grateful to you, Mr. president, and to the United States of America for the understanding you have been showing for our particular German problem.

"I have said on several occasions on this visit-I said it also today when I had the honor to address the Senate of the United States--that it would not be a good and a right alliance, it would not be real friendship, if each country were to look at its own interests only, were to look at the geographical area in which itself is situated and would not look beyond that. And it would be a bad alliance, it would be a bad friendship, if every partner were not ready also to stand up for the other partners.

"We fully recognize the seriousness of your problems. I think of Cuba, I think in terms of South Viet-Nam, we consider them also to be our problems. We also feel an obligation, as you are understanding our particular situation in the Federal Republic of Germany, our particular problems, and I hope and I am sure that this is a good firm foundation of our friendship and cooperation. I think all that is divided today can be overcome. And where there is so much good will and deep and honest friendship I am absolutely convinced that this good relationship will continue between our two countries and that it will continue to be an element of freedom, of security, and of peace in the world.

"Mr. President, today during our conversations we have assured one another of our mutual sympathy, and when I have done that I think it was more than a diplomatic phrase or a diplomatic formula. It was, so to speak, let me say that quite frankly, a human confession and I think it was understood in that way by the two of us. We are convinced that it is our common task, and I say that with all humility which is due to us Germans and which we must observe, I think this is a common task with which we are confronted. What we can do will be done gradually as a contribution towards peace, security, freedom, and liberty, and prosperity of all well meaning nations and countries in the world.

"In conclusion, I propose a toast to you, Mr. President, and to the health of Mrs. Johnson.

"Thank you very much."

Before coming to Washington, Chancellor Erhard had received an honorary degree from Harvard University. His earlier meeting with the President was at the LBJ Ranch in Texas in December (see Items 72-76).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Toasts of the President and Chancellor Erhard Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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