Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and President Diaz Ordaz

October 26, 1967

Mr. President and Mrs. Diaz Ordaz, Mr. Secretary and Mrs. Carrillo Flores, Vice President and Mrs. Humphrey, Secretary and Mrs. Rusk, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

It has been 8 years since a Mexican President visited here in the White House--too long an interval, by any standard. We have met frequently in other places--at Los Pinos, in ceremonies along the border, at my home in Texas. But the White House is the real home of all Americans. When our friends come here, they come, symbolically, into every American home. And no one could be more welcome in the American home tonight than our neighbor, Mexico.

I should warn you, Mr. President, that there is in our midst a countryman of yours--whose popularity is such, that if he were to run for public office in either country, he might retire both of us to private life. It is our good fortune that Cantinflas prefers to make fun of presidents, rather than run against them. When he does appear on the political scene--as Henry Gonzalez can testify--the effect simply is overwhelming.

With all due respect to Senor Cantinflas and his fellow actors, Mr. President, I think you and I know that there is at least one significant difference between being a president in the movies and actually having the job. As one of our own American comedians, the late Will Rogers, used to say frequently: "Spinning a rope is always a lot more fun when your neck ain't in it."

Mr. President, the United States and Mexico are showing the world what good neighbors really can accomplish.

Our common frontier extends almost 2,000 miles. It is without any military defenses. Millions of our citizens cross it each year. We have worked together to harness the waters that define those boundaries--and to relieve the suffering of our people when natural disaster has struck them both. We are partners at home; we are partners also in major undertakings abroad.

In my welcoming statement earlier today, I mentioned, Mr. President, what your great country is doing to help overcome food deficits in other parts of the world. This is a matter of great interest to the people of the United States. Our own agriculture is helping to meet the immediate needs of starving peoples. But no surplus in any one country can hope to meet the staggering needs of the future. The world can avoid disaster only through development of modern agriculture, and better crops in all countries. And here you and the people of Mexico are leading the way in the world.

Working with the Rockefeller Foundation, you have developed remarkable new strains of wheat which can produce more than twice the crop from the same amount of land. These are already in use in Pakistan and India, and are being tested in Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan. I understand that in recent years you have concluded the largest international sales of seed wheat to be recorded by any country. You are making a major contribution to solving one of the greatest problems confronting the modern world over the next generation.

As you yourself said, Mr. President:

"All the communities which in our day struggle for higher standards of living may find in the history of Mexico a straight line of conduct, guided by our firm resolve to preserve the right of self-determination."

Mr. President, we are proud to be the friend and neighbor of such a nation. And we are very proud to have you at our table and in this house tonight--the leader of a proud and independent people, whose kinsmen have made an enormous contribution to our advance in America. May the peace and friendship which unites our nations be a symbol to others of how nations should conduct themselves with each other.

Ladies and gentlemen, to the President and to the people of Mexico.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 10:20 p.m. at a dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House• In his opening words he referred to President and Mrs. Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations and Mrs. Antonio Carrillo Flores, Vice President and Mrs. Hubert H. Humphrey, and Secretary of State and Mrs. Dean Rusk. Later he referred to Mexican comedian Mario Moreno Reyes (Cantinflas) and Representative Henry B. Gonzalez of Texas. As printed this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.

President Diaz Ordaz responded as follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson, ladies and gentlemen:

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for the cordial words which you have spoken. I also am grateful for your having mentioned a citizen of our country, Mario Moreno, who expresses with his heart the spirit of the country from which we come.

It is a nonviolent manner of expressing a psychologically violent protest against the life led by the poorest of all. But it is through his laughter that he redeems his life of poverty. Mario Moreno represents the typical poor Mexican--poor, but proud.

As you have just mentioned, we are a proud people, proud in the best sense of the world--in the manner in which I intend to explain now.

Mario Moreno was born poor, as were many thousands of Mexicans. Poverty we must recognize represents one advantage: Because the money ends before the end of the month, this permits a poor man to spend several days without spending any money at all.

Proud in the best sense of the word. We have not become vain with the initial successes that have cost us much work--but indeed we are proud of these first steps on a road that we have decided to follow.

I would like to tell you an anecdote. This noon at the luncheon given by Vice President Humphrey, a beautiful and distinguished lady, who shared our table, told us that once she had met a person whose accent she thought she recognized. She asked him, "Are you Mexican?" He answered, "Yes, I am, although I do not deserve to be."

We are proud of our country not because it is large or rich or even beautiful. We are proud of our country simply because it is our country.

You mentioned this morning, and again tonight, Mr. President, one of the successes of which we are proud and satisfied--the development of new strains of wheat in Mexico which have done much to alleviate hunger and increase production in far-off parts of the world. We continue in this task with the aid of two American institutions--the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

We are proud and satisfied, Mr. President, that we may be able to contribute some small part in solving the food deficit in other parts of the world. Of course, we are not fully satisfied because we have not managed to eliminate the food deficit in our own country completely. We still have a poor group in our country who have a very low standard of living. We must make every effort to raise that standard of living.

You remind me, Mr. President, of the many pleasant meetings we have had in the past. I had the pleasure of meeting you 3 years ago when you were kind enough to invite me to your home, your ranch in Texas, at a special time. A very important event had taken place in your life, and another one was about to happen.

The first of these events was the election which had taken place in which the people of the United States had elected you to the Presidency for the term that was to initiate at the beginning of January of 1965.

The other event was a very personal one in your life. Within a few days of our visit of Mrs. Diaz Ordaz and myself, you were about to have been married 30 years to that charming lady, Mrs. Claudia Johnson.

We again saw each other in April of last year when you honored us with your presence on the occasion of the unveiling of the statue of Abraham Lincoln which the Government and the people of the United States had given to the Government and people of Mexico, and which now stands in a beautiful park in Mexico City--the statue of the great emancipator of slaves, Abraham Lincoln.

Permit me, Mr. President, in return for the gift received by Mexico City, the statue of Abraham Lincoln, to give to the city of Washington a statue of a great Mexican President, Benito Juarez.

We believe it could be of similar proportions to the statue of Abraham Lincoln and, if the regulations of the city of Washington permit it and you find a place for it, we will be very glad to place here the image of that great Indian who has inspired us for many years and whose thoughts we hope will speak through his presence in this city of Washington.

These two men, who were born relatively close together, have become brothers in the sense that they both share an indomitable spirit. They are both saviors of their countries and they are both similar in their ideals.

One, Honest Abe, gave liberty to the slaves in his country. The other, immaculate Bentio Juarez, gave us a second independence by insuring that we not be dominated by forces which came from the outside.

In one of the most difficult moments of our history, the voice of Abraham Lincoln, in the nerve center of this country, here in this Capital, spoke in favor of Benito Juarez, whom he understood and whose fight for Mexico he also understood.

Lincoln and Juarez could speak and understand each other. Let us now let them speak and let us now understand them. Let us now understand their faith in the rule of law and justice.

Next Saturday, Mr. President, you and I will go to the border where we will see the fruitful conclusion of a petition made by Benito Juarez more than 100 years ago and that today comes to fruitful conclusion. Because although it may take some years or some days or a long time for law to impose itself, law and justice eventually will always impose themselves.

Mr. President, you and Mrs. Johnson have beaten us, so to speak, because you arrived at 30 years of marriage almost 3 years ago, whereas Mrs. Diaz Ordaz and myself were only married 30 years ago 1 month ago.

However, there is one thing in which we were before you. We had a first grandson before you did.

Since we have mentioned the tender responsibility of a grandchild, I would like to say, Mr. President, that though I have come on what, from a protocol point of view, can be considered an official visit, from an emotional point of view it is an unofficial and friendly visit.

On these terms, I would like to ask you, Mr. President, is it not true that when one has a child one must fight harder to make a better home and a better country, and that when one has a grandchild, one must again strengthen one's own fight toward a better home and a better country?

Mr. President, let us together do our utmost for that which is within our direct scope of responsibility-that is, to bring our own two countries together ever closer, ever friendlier, and with ever more respect for each other.

And now to finish, I would ask all of you to join me in wishing the best for the United States of America, and for President Lyndon Johnson and Mrs. Johnson.

Thank you.

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

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