Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and Chancellor Erhard of Germany

September 26, 1966

Mr. Chancellor, Mrs. Erhard, ladies and gentlemen:

When Swift was informed that Handel was at his door, he said, "Ahh, a German and a genius. Admit him."

We greet you tonight, Mr. Chancellor, with equal vigor and enthusiasm. Not only because you are a German and a genius, but because you have also brought with you, for the first time, your devoted companion and helpmate, Mrs. Erhard, whom we are delighted to welcome this evening.

It was a native of your country who said that, "He only earns his freedom and existence who daily conquers them anew."

We in this country believe that. We believe that the game is won or lost every day. We believe that the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness is never ended. We believe that it is as new as the rising sun and as urgent to all of us as the next breath of fresh air.

Because the people of your country are unafraid of each day's test, they have shown the world, now for more than 20 years, what courage and fortitude can mean in the life of a nation that is determined to build anew.

You have given the world not only an example of resolution, you have given us the gifts of culture and science and spirit which have enhanced the lives of so many.

Your contribution to the Metropolitan Opera is something that I can never forget, Mr. Chancellor--because Lady Bird won't let me.

And in Vietnam tonight are your doctors and your teachers who have come there from Germany, and your medicine and your economic assistance--all devoted to spelling hope to aid a struggling, freedom-seeking people.

You seem to understand how deep is our concern for South Vietnam and how earnestly our thoughts these days are turned in that direction.

But you also know that America's efforts in Southeast Asia can and will never diminish our concern for the security of Europe and the Atlantic, because, Mr. Chancellor, more than one ocean commands our interest.

Mr. Chancellor, no one need doubt the American commitment to Europe's future. We keep our commitments in Vietnam and we keep them every place that we have them.

We stand with our allies in NATO, firmly dedicated to a common defense, because we believe in firmness and in unity lie the best hopes of peace in the world.

That is why the security of West Berlin, that island of courage, that city of commitment, is so very important to all Americans. I recall vividly how the spirit of its people inspired me during my most delightful visit there in 1961 at a very critical moment in our national life.

So we share your determination that the people of all Germany shall be peacefully united in freedom with all of their fellow citizens--and we do believe that it will truly come to pass.

I also share your hope, Mr. Chancellor, expressed to me earlier today, that I can come to Europe again. Your invitation to come to Germany next spring would give me a good opportunity for another meeting with our friends and allies. I want to assure you, sir, that I will try my very best to accept your invitation, if my other responsibilities will permit.

I have welcomed you on many occasions, Mr. Chancellor, as a statesman of the modern world, but always most of all as our friend.

Tonight, I welcome you again as a great leader, as a champion of progress for your people, as hope for mankind, and as one of our close and trusted friends in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, I should like to ask you to join me in a toast to the President of the Federal Republic of Germany and to the whole German people, whose security and whose freedom are our very own.

Note: The President spoke at 10:25 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House, at a dinner honoring Chancellor Ludwig Erhard. The Chancellor's response follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson, ladies and gentlemen: I would like, Mr. President, to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the warm welcome that you have extended to me and, very particularly, to Mrs. Erhard, to my colleagues, and to the members of my delegation.

I have felt, today, how closely and how long we belong to each other. If I say long, I am thinking in terms of my activities in German political life which reach back to the time of the breakdown.

I am thinking about, too, the happy experiences which became alive again today when I met so many people with whom, from the very beginning, I cooperated in rebuilding our country.

I won't be able to name them all, but I would like to name a few of them on behalf of all. General Lucius Clay, Mr. McCloy, General Taylor--as I say, I can't name them all.

But I have again felt something of the good will and open-mindedness with which the American people met us in the darkest hour of our nation. And that, Mr. President, will remain unforgotten.

This is a lasting bond and this, in fact, has brought about the community of ideals which we share in common. In the beginning we thought that we were about to be reeducated. But soon we felt that there was much more behind it, that there was the honest will of a friend who was extending his saving hand to those who were in bitter need.

In the meantime, we have experienced, as you have said, Mr. President, that freedom needs to be conquered daily anew. And to use your words, these ideals require of us courage and firmness.

When I think of your worries which occupy you in the first line, then I can say, Mr. President. that I believe that of all of the peoples of the world there is none that has as much understanding and feels as much sympathy for the pain and at the same time the hope which the American people experience when standing up for the freedom you fight for, a just peace, and for the restoration of law and order, and that we share your hope that you be successful in restoring calm and order in that part of the world.

We do what we can do to help you in the humanitarian field. You can also be sure that the German people as a whole feel and know that there is moral relationship between the worries you are occupied with and that move you, and the worries that move the German people. I have only to quote in that context the name of Berlin.

And we cannot be sure of our freedom without making efforts daily to preserve that freedom. And in Germany there are problems still, the solution of which requires your assistance. And let me say that in trying to solve these problems we trust in you.

We have to solve the European problems, but we consider these problems imbricated into an Atlantic world and we know that what is about to form in Europe is indissolubly linked with what the Atlantic Alliance stands for with our joint effort to stand up in defense of the ideals of freedom, peace, and security.

And for us the United States of America is the country in which we place the greatest trust, with whom we feel the most intimate solidarity. We are aware that freedom, peace, security, are not words which should only be used when there is no problem and no tension, should be used only because you are sure to get applause when you use them, that they must not become the small change, that they must not become slogans. But that they must be comprehended in their total value, in what they mean as commitment for man, for peoples, for nations.

And if during these days, Mr. President, we struggle in the joint search for fruitful solutions, we know that friendship does not only have to prove its value when there is sunshine everywhere and when there is not the slightest difference in interests--we feel that these ideals must stand their test even when both our countries have, each of them, their worries. And that we must try not only to understand ours but that we must at the same time show the greatest understanding for the partner, the ally, the friend.

And I think that this was underlying all our talks. It was also underlying our internal discussions on our side, that we were trying on our side to have the maximum understanding for the American position.

And we are equally sure, Mr. President, that the same was true for the American side--that you, too, were appreciating, trying to understand, our reasons.

We don't have to use big words and I don't think there is any reason for us to give up. The problems of our world can be solved. They can be solved all the more easily, the closer we stand together. What we defend cannot be had for nothing. And we are prepared to pay the price that goes with it.

When I say "price" I don't mean that in the material sense. I mean it in terms of the willingness of peoples to assume the sacrifices that must be assumed in order to settle problems.

I was very pleased, Mr. President, that you have opened this hope and I do believe that it is and I do hope that it is more than only hope: the expectation that soon we shall be able to welcome you in Germany. And then, of course, Mr. President, we expect to welcome you and Mrs. Johnson. And I am sure that the reception you will have in Germany, not only from the Government, but from the people, will be a welcome with open arms. Because the German people understand that you are a symbol of this world and that we share a common fate.

Some people may think that this is a historical accident. I think it is important. I think that there is a common spirit animating us and this common spirit must not be lost, because otherwise cruelty and force would prevail in the world.

We must be vigilant. We must be strong. But we must also trust in the moral force which will guarantee freedom, peace, and the order of law.

I would like to toast looking forward to having our next meeting, Mr. President, take place in Germany, and then you will find that this is visible confirmation of the friendship between our two nations, a friendship which is lasting.

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

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