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Toasts of the President and Former Chancellor Ludwig Erhard of Germany

March 21, 1968

Professor Erhard, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Secretary of State, Members of the Cabinet and the Congress, distinguished guests:

My appointment calendar describes this occasion as what we call a "working luncheon."

I suspect that our guest today might be thinking to himself, "Is there ever any other kind of luncheon?"

It has been a great privilege to me to have, as a working partner, Professor Erhard. We have been friends for a very long time, and he has always been a very strong and a very wise friend of this country.

So I am very happy today to speak for all of our people in bidding the Professor welcome once more to this Nation and to this house.

We know that you have just returned from an extended visit to Latin America. I was delighted to have the benefit of your observations on the development and progress in that part of the world. We always value any impressions that you can share with us. Your Latin American travels are heartening evidence of Europe's commitment to helping the developing countries and 'providing leadership and strength to those who need it, who value it, and who, I hope, will profit from it. We in this country welcome that role and we want to work with you to enlarge it.

To my guests here today, I know that you know and the world knows that Professor Erhard had a large hand in creating the economic miracles that brought new life to Europe. It was the spirit of Atlantic cooperation that made so much of that prosperity that came possible. And it is the same staunch spirit--of common trust and common hopes--that unites the Atlantic peoples now, as they search for new miracles and for a greater prosperity for tomorrow.

The value and the vitality of that cooperation, as Professor Heller just observed a few moments ago, was demonstrated here in Washington only this last weekend at the meeting of the gold pool countries. We are going on now to build upon that partnership, build a stronger and a more efficient international monetary system.

There are still many difficulties and hurdles in the way. We have overcome many obstacles in making the progress that we made last weekend; we have others yet to overcome.

I know that our distinguished guest will approve and support our common efforts. We are, in fact, building on the strong foundations of cooperation that he, himself, set in place as a statesman and as a visionary in the postwar years.

It gives me a great deal of pride to be privileged to acknowledge the debt that the entire Atlantic community owes to this wise man. We are always happier for the pleasure of his company, richer for the experiences that he shares with us and wiser for his counsel, and surer for his steadfastness. In all of the conversations that I have had with leaders of other nations, I have never been surer of any than I was of those with Chancellor Erhard.

This luncheon today is but a very small mark of the high regard and the very warm affection that we in this country hold for this good man and this grand servant of our world, Professor Erhard.

So to this special group of outstanding representatives of various parts of our American life, I would like to ask you to share with me and join with me in toasting a friend and comrade in bright hope--Professor Erhard; in a toast to the President of the Federal Republic of Germany; and in a toast to our friends, the people of Germany.

Note: The President spoke at 2:09 p.m. in the Family Dining Room at the White House. In his opening words he also referred to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and Secretary of State Dean Rusk. Later he referred to Walter W. Heller, professor of economics at the University of Minnesota and former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Mr. Erhard responded as follows:

Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, gentlemen:

It is a great privilege and a great pleasure for me to be here. It is almost 5 years now that have gone by since I met for the first time with you, Mr. President. During all this time we have had a close understanding. Our attitudes spiritually, morally, and politically have been very close to each other indeed.

We have always acted from the responsibility-not only for your people and for my people--but with the knowledge that whatever we do has a bearing on the entire free world.

I know that your country today faces many problems and has many worries. You can be convinced that I am observing these, watching these, and sharing these with you just as much as I am concerned about the problems in my own country.

Not only in my official capacity in the past, but also personally, it has been proven again and again how dose our views and our attitudes have been.

The political views that you hold and that I am holding have a bearing on many aspects of what happens in the free world. That is the reason why, although now that I am no longer in my office, I will do anything that I can in order to speak out and to do whatever I can for maintaining the solidarity of the Atlantic community.

I think that looking at Europe from the viewpoint of the United States, there is a certain lack of clarity to be found in the picture. Too much is made of what is observed and it troubles many people to a point that I believe they could draw the wrong conclusions.

I already told your distinguished Secretary--with whom I had a few words before coming here to this luncheon--that this picture is not indeed so; that the position in Europe in general and the feeling of the European people in general is much closer to the United States, and is much more pro-American than you would believe from certain obscure demonstrations and other manifestations.

It has become fashionable and it is so cheap to go out and say, "I am against the war in Vietnam"-as if all the other people were violently for war and for carrying on any warfare.

I believe this is a very wrong view and very wrong attitude indeed.

This is not what is transpiring in Vietnam. It is not a question of just what is going on today; it is not just a question of this moment. But it has a very deep, important bearing on the future of the world in general.

As you know, I have just returned from a trip to Latin America. I would like to communicate to you the feeling that I had in all the five countries that I visited, namely, that the government in those countries and the leading circles feel a great gratitude for the United States.

I am keenly aware of what the United States has done for this area. As far as I am concerned, I feel that I should do everything possible to urge my own country to become more active in this region and to increase their participation in helping Latin America.

It is important, not only with regard to the improvement of the well-being of the living standard in this area, but it may very well be that one day the decisive battle between a system of freedom and a free order and totalitarianism might be fought in the arena of South America.

I know how some people feel and I know how easy it is to be critical toward those who have helped you. It seems human nature that debtors just don't love their creditors.

But I can assure you from my experience during this trip that the feeling was very much one of gratitude for the United States.

As regards my own country, I am not ashamed to say and I don't want to restrain myself, that I feel a very great sense of gratitude for what the United States has done to help Germany.
I believe that the standards that seem to apply in civilian life and that are accepted in our Western civilization, a standard of honesty and decency, should just as well apply to all the dealings of the governments with each other.

Our problems in Europe are great also, but I do not want to address myself to these. All I want to say is that I will always fight to the best of my ability for the maintenance of the Atlantic community and for unity in the Atlantic community.

I am afraid that if the Atlantic community should collapse this might lead eventually to disaster for the entire free world and it might, in the shorter range, lead to the coming up of isolationism--not only in the United States, but also in Europe--and neither of us can afford such a development.

I would like to say that in good days, as much as in bad days, you have stood by our side. I believe that today, where the situation for some of us seems to be on the bad side, it is all the more necessary that we stand together in trust and in cooperation.

I would like to close by proposing a toast to your health in the spirit of the very close friendship that has always united us. In proposing this toast to your health and well-being, I am automatically toasting the health and well-being of the entire American Nation. I wish you the best in the future and I hope that you will be successful in completing your historic mission.

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

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