Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and President Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast.

August 17, 1967

Mr. President, Madame Houphouet-Boigny, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Rusk, Secretary Weaver, distinguished Governors, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

We are honored today to have with us one of the most respected statesmen of our time.

President Houphouet-Boigny is the beloved father of a thriving nation. He is a powerful force for reason in the affairs of his great and diverse continent. His presence here with us today is a very fitting symbol of the strong bonds of friendship and mutual respect which unite his country, the Ivory Coast, and our country, the United States of America.

Mr. President, as you so well know--and as all of those of you here today know-most of mankind is today engaged in a fateful race to turn the restless energies of deprived people to the peaceful works of economic development--rather than to violent self-destruction.

The President and I talked about affairs in his continent. We talked about our problems here in the United States. We looked at the challenges that face us in this hemisphere, in Europe, and in Asia.

We both were in agreement that there was so much to be done, that this is such an exciting period in which to do it, and we just hoped that we would have time to make a contribution together.

The world doesn't make progress in a straight line. No nation is immune to failure and frustration. Nor does social change happen quickly. It takes patience, and it takes very hard work.

Perhaps it is inevitable that some will lose heart along the way and drop out. Some observers will regard temporary reverses as-and the pressures of the moment will look like--certain defeat. Some will announce morosely that the developing countries are doomed. "Why should we look at other parts of the world, when we have so many problems of our own?" Some will say that the arithmetic of development is really beyond human capacity, after all--particularly in Africa.

To those that tell us that the developing countries are really doomed, to those Cassandras, Mr. President, we have a very simple answer. We say to them: Look at the Ivory Coast.

Economists have a rule of thumb that a country needs an annual increase of somewhere around 5 to 6 percent in gross national product in order to generate the forward momentum essential to proper development. Over the past 3 years, the Ivory Coast has averaged not 5 percent, but 9 percent.

Agricultural experts regard 4 percent as a quite respectable growth in food production. But over the past 3 years, the Ivory Coast has averaged not 4 percent, but nearly 8 percent. Industrial output has risen during this period by more than 16 percent per year.

These numbers and these achievements reflect what are the real benchmarks of history. I speak for every American, Mr. President, in applauding your people.

Mr. President, we are grateful to you for expressing to me this morning in most eloquent terms your concern for the developmental process and your feeling of distress that there has not been more unification and coordination among the nations that are able in the world to bring this about through the presentation of a unified program where better progress could be made.

Those of us who are concerned, as you are, with the developmental process have tried to learn from your example. We have tried to isolate the elements that you have put together to produce the economic miracle in your own country.

I think we have done fairly well at identifying the mechanics of this process. We can describe them in mathematical terms, yet it is your astute combination of land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship that has made this possible.

But, Mr. President, there is one element that we cannot assign numbers to. This is vision.

The Bible tells us that "Where there is no vision, the people perish." You have proved that where there is vision--and where there is leadership--then the people can prosper.

My friends, the capacity to plan and to provide genuine leadership for his people are qualities that distinguish our guest here today. We are mindful of the great good that he has already done in the service of mankind. We are grateful for his wise counsel. We look forward with great pleasure to a close association with him and with his people in the years ahead.

Above all, we bid him the warmest of welcomes.

I ask those of you who have come from all across this land to join me now in a toast to His Excellency, President Houphouet-Boigny, to Madame Houphouet-Boigny, and to all of the people of the Ivory Coast.

Note: The President spoke at 3 p.m. at a luncheon in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to President Felix Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast and his wife Marie-Therese, Vice President of the United States Hubert H. Humphrey, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Robert C. Weaver. As printed this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.

President Houphouet-Boigny responded as follows: Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Vice President, distinguished Secretaries, Governors, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Allow me, first of all, to thank you for your very kind invitation and, particularly, for the very moving words that you have just said with regard to myself.

And those words, coming from a man who holds in his hands the destiny of such a great country, those words coming from you, Mr. President, are, indeed, very moving and really reach the very innermost part of my heart and my mind.

This opinion that you have expressed regarding the development of our young country is an opinion which we hold very dear and which we consider most encouraging.

During the meeting we had earlier today, you showed again, Mr. President, the considerable interest that you attach to my country. You showed a true interest and understanding of our present problems.

I am very happy and gratified, indeed, that the Ivory Coast is a country which has listened to and which is appreciated by its friends, particularly by the United States, a country with which we share the greatest and truest ideals of freedom, peace, and progress, and a country with which the ties of cooperation that exist are developing in a most successful and satisfactory manner.

And the fact that our friendship for the democracy of the United States, and the fact that we have the same concepts and we have the same interests and purposes, explain very well the reasons why at times we have taken certain attitudes and certain positions, showing fully our awareness of the responsibilities of the United States and the very serious problems of your country.

We are happy and gratified, Mr. President, to believe that this visit of ours to your great and magnificent country is going to strengthen evermore the very foundations of the friendship that unite our two nations.

Also, we trust that this visit is going to broaden even more the basis for our cooperation, a basis which I myself want to extend to its fullest measure.

I wanted only to say a few words, Mr. President, but there is something more that I have to add. It is that the representatives of developing countries, such as my own, continue to follow with great interest the considerable efforts and great sacrifices that you are making in your country in order to bring to the entire world--a world which is torn by fear--a true sense of freedom, a freedom for men, a freedom for mankind, and a freedom for peoples.

We have but limited means at our disposal, but we are intending, as always, to make all the contribution that you can expect from us.

Now, in a concluding note, I want to present to you my most sincere wishes for success in all those undertakings so that all those great efforts and all the sacrifices that you are making will be, indeed successful and will make it possible to extend throughout the world the kingdom of peace and true human fraternity.

In concluding, may I propose a toast to your own personal health and that of Mrs. Johnson, and to the growing prosperity of the United States.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Toasts of the President and President Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/237902

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