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Toasts of the President and President Ayub Khan at the State Dinner at Mount Vernon

July 11, 1961

Ladies and gentlemen:

I want to express, first, the appreciation of us all to our hosts, and I would not want the President of Pakistan and his party to think that he was being entertained by the United States Government, or the President. We are all guests here tonight--the Americans and our visitors from abroad--of a somewhat obscure group, but nevertheless extremely powerful and significant, the Ladies of Mount Vernon.

It is a source of great satisfaction to my wife, far surpassing anything else that has happened to her, that she is related by marriage to Connecticut, which is the title given to the Lady of Mount Vernon who comes from that State.

We are also, though Members of Congress never probably realized it, we also have in Congress, Ohio-which is Mrs. Bolton, who is the Lady who is very active in politics but hides many of the things that she does under a bushel, and has labored long for Mount Vernon and for many other causes, and as usual none of us knows about it. So we want to express our great satisfaction in having a member of our lowly profession so honored by the Ladies.

I want to express our thanks to the Regent, Mrs. Beirne, who has been so generous, and to Mr. Wall, who is the Director of Mount Vernon. I want to say, and I am sure I speak on behalf of my fellow countrymen and women, the great pride and satisfaction that we have in Mount Vernon. This is the first time, I am sure, that any of us have dined here. This is a great object of regard and respect by our fellow citizens. It is intensely felt by the Members of the Congress and members of the Government, and therefore for all of us, not only from abroad but from home who come to Mount Vernon, we feel the greatest pride in it.

Mr. President, we feel a special satisfaction because you are our guest tonight and because we feel that what Mount Vernon stands for is understood by you. Mount Vernon means to us not merely a beautiful home, but it also is, we hope, the symbol of the United States--in the past, the present, and we hope the future.

This country was developed by an extraordinary group of men who had wide talent, who came from among the most prosperous group in our country, and yet were revolutionaries, and who made this country's independence possible. And we hope that the same principles with which our hosts tonight honor President Washington, we hope this country stands for today.

We recognize in you a leader who stands for those things in his own country, who recognizes that the independence of his own country is not enough, that there is a link which binds your country and ours all the way across the globe. And it is a particular source of satisfaction to my wife and to myself that this dinner here honors you who, as I said at the airport this morning, has been a friend of our country long before I became the President; but even in the short time that I have been President, I have seen a most particular manifestation of your country's willingness to commit itself for the cause of freedom.

George Washington once said, "I would rather be at Mount Vernon with a friend or two about me than be attended at the seat of government by the officers of state and the representatives of every power in Europe."

We have got a friend or two about us tonight. We nevertheless feel that Washington would be glad we are here, and would be glad that we are his guests and particularly, I believe, that you brought your daughter and her husband here, and the members of your party. And I hope you realize that among both Republicans and Democrats, and among all the Americans here tonight, that no one could be a more welcome guest.

I hope that you will all join with me in drinking a toast to the President of Pakistan and the people of his country.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a state dinner given in a pavilion overlooking the Potomac River at Mount Vernon. President Ayub Khan responded as follows:
"Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen:

"I am very grateful to the President for the kind words he said about me and my country. And I am also very grateful for our hosts. I thought Mrs. Kennedy was our host. I thought that it was her idea, and that may well be fight, even now. After what the President has said, I must thank the Ladies of Mount Vernon--I hope they are here-for this magnificent arrangement which they have made.

"I have been most inspired to come to this place, because the man who built it, your first President, he certainly was a very distinguished soldier. And it seems that history keeps on repeating itself. The poor soldiers!--having to first of all defend their country; when they get into a mess they have also got to put it right, too. And when they do that, people call them dictators. That is a very poor consolation for an honest effort to serve one's kith and kin and one's future generations.

"I think the history of a country like mine is probably passing through a similar phase as the history of your country did at the time of George Washington. And I think, too, that it will be correct to say that our problems are probably more pressing and more immediate, and we have to fight against time.

"Life has never been easy for anybody who wants to do things above the normal. But today, for instance, a country like mine that got its independence 14 years ago, found itself all of a sudden pitched forth into a very competitive and fast-moving world, whilst the people had not been prepared, through foreign domination, through the accident of history, to be able to fit into today's world, to be able to move with today's world. And if those people don't move in today's world, they are not only going to be left behind, but they will find no place in this world.

"So we not only have to have the task of getting rid of all those legacies that accumulate as a result of that type of history, but we have the task of shaking our people out of stagnation, we have the task of educating them, and bringing them up to the common line of starting, from which they can start moving out into the world of today. We have got to shed our prejudices, we have got to carry out all sorts of information, in order to psychologically, physically, and otherwise to prepare our people to move and be of some consequence in the life of today.

"And that is happening, especially in Asia, an extremely dangerous and difficult environment. And any country that falters in Asia, for even a year or two, will find itself subjugated to communism. And that threat is always present. And to say that in any country the number of Communists is limited, and so on, is not a true guide. Once you have weak governments, once you have people at the helm of affairs who are incapable of giving the fight decisions, and in time, and not be able to make your people move forward-you have got to make, sometimes, harsh decisions, certainly unpleasant decisions--the creeping forward of communism begins.

"So in one way or another we are carrying out a similar sort of exercise George Washington did, in his time, under perhaps more difficult circumstances. But I think if people have a certain amount of vision, a certain amount of determination and courage, I don't see any reason why one should not be able to overcome this problem.

"Now during this period of trying to develop the people and make them progress, and make their lives a little better than they have been in the past, we have to spare all our resources we can to sink into the country, and at the same time expect our friends to assist us to be able to develop our country; because no country in the world, to my knowledge, has been able to develop or obtain a higher standard of living without some sort of outside assistance. But I am sure that our friends are conscious of it, and at the same time I can assure them that we are determined, and I think our people are determined. They are getting conscious, they are getting ready to make a real effort to move forward by breaking through that period of stagnation, in order to make secure their freedom, in order to secure for themselves a better living condition.

"So as I say, it is really a source of great inspiration to me to come to a place like this. And I am very grateful to you, Mr. President, for bringing them here, at the same time all the ladies. who are our hosts, and I see quite a number of my old friends here--and really, in one way or another, it has been a lovely evening--indeed one which I shall never forget.

"Now I will ask you to rise, please, in a toast to the health of the President and Mrs. Kennedy, and the well-being and happiness of your great country."

In his remarks the President referred to Mrs. Francis F. Beirne, Regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, and Charles C. Wall, Resident Director of Mount Vernon.

John F. Kennedy, Toasts of the President and President Ayub Khan at the State Dinner at Mount Vernon Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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