Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and General Ankrah, Chairman, National Liberation Council of the Republic of Ghana

October 10, 1967

General and Mrs. Ankrah, Mr. Secretary of State, Governor Shafer, distinguished Members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

Walt Whitman once described America as "not merely a nation, but a nation teeming with nations."

"The genius of the United States," he said, "is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its Ambassadors or authors or colleges or churches, nor even in its newspapers or inventors... but always most in the common people."

The "common people" of America include Afro-Americans--whose ancestors came to us in chains.

But bondage did not break their spirit. Discrimination did not dwarf their genius. They overcame. Today, they enrich our national life and the quality of our civilization. Descendants of slaves, they have taught the world much that it knows about freedom. In song and poem--as writers, athletes, soldiers, and diplomats--in the arts, the sciences, in commerce--in our Supreme Court, our Congress, our Cabinet--every year the seeds of their new achievements are sown and the harvest of our good fortune grows.

As Afro-Americans expanded the idea of freedom in America, Ghanaians helped to bring freedom to modern Africa.

A decade ago, the Gold Coast became the independent Nation of Ghana. Following her lead, 30 other nations in Africa have since come to independence.

The new independence of Africa has echoed around the world--and because of it men today walk straighter in more than a hundred lands. This is nowhere truer than in this land, where Americans of every race watch the African resurgence with pride and interest.

Freedom brings responsibilities, as well as hopes. General Ankrah and the National Liberation Council have fearlessly faced up to these responsibilities.

They found a people that were weary in spirit, impoverished by tyranny, disillusioned by many broken promises. History demonstrates that this is the moment of truth for a nation's leaders--for it is always tempting to deal with the ruins of one tyranny by imposing another.

But General Ankrah and the National Liberation Council rejected tyranny. Like our own forefathers, they dedicated their lives, their hopes, and their sacred honor to the proposition that the only legitimate government is self-government.

They brought together a representative group of outstanding citizens and asked them to write a democratic constitution. They announced firm plans for free elections. They imposed the austerity measures required to settle their debts and restore their financial self-respect in the community of trading nations.

These are not easy steps for any nation. Nor are they always popular. But they were right and they were necessary, and General Ankrah is taking them--and retaining the firm support of his people while doing so.

Mr. Chairman, America's interest in Africa is very simple. Our interest is in seeing a community of prosperous and free nations come into being--proud of its unique heritage, and proud to be a partner in world progress. We shall help you wherever we can--and only where you wish.

Ladies and gentlemen, we honor freedom and responsibility in this house today. I ask all of you who have come here from throughout this land to join me in a toast to freedom in Africa, to freedom in Ghana, and to a champion of freedom and his gracious lady, General and Mrs. Joseph Ankrah.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 2:30 p.m. at a luncheon in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Lt. Gen. Joseph A. Ankrah and Mrs. Ankrah, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and Governor Raymond P. Shafer of Pennsylvania. As printed this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.

General Ankrah responded as follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Secretary of State, Mr. Under Secretary of State, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

I will be very brief, because whatever I want to say, in fact, has already been said by my host.

Mrs. Ankrah and I, and the rest of my party, have been in your great country for less than a day, but we are already feeling at home. We have found the hospitality of the Government and people of the United States overwhelming and we very much look forward to enjoying our stay in this country.

Mr. President, we are very grateful to you for the pleasant things you have said about us, especially about our country, and for the wonderful arrangements that have been made for our comfort. We also deeply appreciate the help of the Government and people of the United States of America which was given us in our time of need.

The various forms of assistance we have received from this country have been an important element in the reconstruction of our country's economy. We are making steady progress in our efforts to bring our economy back on its feet once more, and we are encouraged to know that your Government and the people of the United States appreciate this and wish us well.

We hope that our meeting today will open up for us wider and greater horizons for a free collaboration and cooperation in the interest of our two countries. The great ideals of liberty, freedom, and equality on which your great country has been founded are our own guiding principles in our efforts to establish a prosperous, progressive, and democratic society in Ghana. Our country may be small in size and population, but we have great confidence that it nevertheless has tremendous potential for achieving these objectives.

We are currently engaged in actively exploring some of the ways in which we can cooperate with our neighbors in West Africa and in Africa as a whole, to develop the many resources that nature has richly endowed our continent. Here, again, we are encouraged to note that we have had ready and willing support of the Government and people of the United States. With this support--which we already have--and the good will of offer friendly nations, we are confident that we shall ultimately succeed in our present endeavors.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I ask you to join me in a toast to the President of the United States of America and to Mrs. Johnson.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Toasts of the President and General Ankrah, Chairman, National Liberation Council of the Republic of Ghana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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