John F. Kennedy photo

Toasts of the President and President Radhakrishnan

June 03, 1963

Mr. President:

I want to express a very warm welcome to you to this House and also again to this country. We are honored to have you as the representative of your country, as the President of your country, and also as a distinguished former teacher and professor.

Here in the United States we have never gone as far, nor may I say to Professor Galbraith do we plan to go so far, as to make a professor the President of the United States. But we admire those countries that do.

I want to express our very warm welcome. The United States and India are the two largest democracies in the world. We take great pride and pleasure in proclaiming that fact, and we expect those who live in the outer reaches to be duly impressed.

I do think it is important for us to recall the obligations which go with that form of government. Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all of the other systems that have been tried. It is most difficult. It places upon those who are governed in such a manner the most heavy obligations not only to improve through a system of freedom the life of their people but also to bear the heavy burdens which go with maintaining the freedom in a difficult and hazardous world.

We are particularly glad to have you here, Mr. President, because of your own distinguished contribution not only to the welfare of your country but also with those great matters which spread beyond your country and surround the world, an understanding of life, of its purpose, its meaning, its direction, its hopes. So I hope that all my fellow countrymen will take the same pride in welcoming to the United States the first President of India, the country with whom we have had the most intimate associations, closer today than ever before, and also take the same pride that we have in having as our guest a distinguished teacher in the larger sense of the word, the President of India. And to the prosperity of his people and to his well-being, I hope you will all drink to President Radhakrishnan.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his response President Radhakrishnan recalled a letter which President Roosevelt had written to Gandhi in 1942. "We two peoples who believe in knowledge and righteousness," wrote Mr. Roosevelt, "must make common cause to fight the common enemy." The wartime allies, said President Radhakrishnan, must now continue the struggle against today's enemies--poverty, disease, and illiteracy. They must strive together in building "a world of free cooperating nations which can work in peace, security, and freedom."

Conditions requisite for such a world now exist, he continued. Science and technology, modern transportation and communications, political and economic institutions, all are making the world a closely knit neighborhood. Yet man, he remarked in conclusion, "is a paradoxical being, full of contradictions, the glory of the world yet the scandal of it; he may be the crown of creation, but if he does not act well he may go down. He is an unfinished being. He has to complete himself and by discipline and dedication he can do so. Both of our countries are working for that goal."

John F. Kennedy, Toasts of the President and President Radhakrishnan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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