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Toasts of the President and President Saragat of Italy

September 19, 1967

President Saragat, Foreign Minister Fanfani, distinguished guests in the party, ladies and gentlemen:

First, let me, on behalf of all the American people, Mr. President, wish you a very happy birthday. We are so glad that you could be here to celebrate it with us.

Mr. President, I know that in your country it is the custom for a man to spend his birthday in the company of his family and friends. Here tonight are two members of your family and everyone else in the room is your friend.

We all wish you the good health, long life, and continued success that you so richly deserve.

When I greeted you yesterday I mentioned the great debt that our country owes to your country--that America owes to Italy--and to the millions of Italians who have helped to build America into what it is.

In our Congress--and with us tonight-are Members who are proud to trace their ancestry to your land. Some of their names have the very sound of Italy in them: Pastore and Annunzio, Daddario and Rodino, Vigorito and Brasco, Conte and Addabbo and many, many more whom I do not have the time to list, including some who roam around the White House in the late hours of the evening named Valenti and Califano.

The roster of great Italian-Americans is far too long for me to recite to you tonight, but I will mention one, Enrico Fermi. As you once were, Mr. President, he was exiled from his country and he found haven here.

Twenty-five years ago this December, at our own University of Chicago, this brilliant physicist achieved mankind's first nuclear chain reaction. It ushered in a new age. Dr. Arthur Compton, in a very guarded telephone call to a colleague, said, "The Italian Navigator has just landed in the New World."

Our conversations, Mr. President, have dealt in part with how we may maintain the peace in this new nuclear world that your brilliant countryman has led us into. I believe our talks yesterday and again today have advanced the quest for peace that unites our nations. I know that they have strengthened the historic friendship that abides between us.

Here tonight at the White House, Mr. President, I am going to ask the ladies and gentlemen who have come from throughout our land to be here with you this evening to join me as I offer a toast to a good friend and a great man: His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Italy.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 10:05 p.m. at a dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Amintore Fanfani, Foreign Minister of Italy. As printed this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.

President Giuseppe Saragat responded as follows:

Mr. President:

I wish first of all to thank you most deeply for the friendly and cordial welcome extended to me, to Foreign Minister Fanfani, and to the members of our delegation.

May I thank you also very much, Mr. President, for the very kind wishes that you have extended to me on the occasion of my birthday.

It appears that it is my destiny to have my birthday on the American Continent. Two years ago I had my birthday in the city of Santiago, in Chile, and this is probably due to the fact that, as you said, one has one's own birthday with friends and with one's own family.

I feel that something pushes me to all the countries of this continent where there are very dear friends.

I have listened with the greatest attention to the words which you have just spoken. Our two countries have known and appreciated each other for a long time.

Italy does not forget, as I had the occasion to recall in the Campidoglio during the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, that twice in this century the United States has contributed decisively to the rescue of the liberty of Western Europe and, with it, the liberty of Italy.

In the second of these occasions when Italy, after a sad parenthesis, found the strength to rebel against those who had pushed her on the path alien to her tradition and went back to align herself on the side of democracy and liberty, it was again America that assisted her with an aid which was instrumental for her recovery, for the reconstruction of her shattered cities, for the growing of a new enthusiasm which enabled her to bring forth a "second Risorgimento"--to use the expression of an American writer--and to further the solution of some of her centuries-old problems.

I sincerely hope, Mr. President, that you will soon visit my country and acquaint yourself with the great progress that it has made in the last few decades.

Faithful to the ideal principles which have accompanied their history and development, the United States and Italy cannot but find themselves side by side in their defense.

In fact, the Atlantic Alliance was born almost 20 years ago, having as its main goal the defense of the concept of life based upon the respect of liberty and on the dignity of the individual.

To this community of free nations, Italy has given her firm and loyal support. My country considers its participation in the Alliance as a fundamental hinge of its foreign policy.

To multiply and to intensify in every field the relations among the allies constitutes one of the most important aims that must be pursued with tenacity and faith.

No attempt, no proposal which might strengthen the hope of a rapprochement among people, is overlooked by us, and Italy knows, Mr. President, that your Government, and you, personally, ardently pursue the same ends.

In the search for an attainment of these goals, your country and mine look always to the organization of the United Nations in the trusting hope that with the contribution of all, the organization could have at its disposal even more adequate and effective instruments for the solution of the most important world problems.

Peace is a precious asset which must be continuously sought and defended with all means. A powerful contribution can come from the solution of the problems of economic and social nature which still beset many countries that have recently attained their national independence.

This, Mr. President, is a particularly delicate moment on the international scene, a moment, therefore which requires an open and frank consultation between the United States and her European allies. Our conversation of these days bears witness to this.

The spirit of firmness and conciliation which guides the United States is well known to us, and Italy knows also that the United States is fully aware of the need to consult with her friends for the definition of the dialogue between West and East.

Mr. President, with the wish that our common action and in particular the action of your great Nation may promote the realization of a just peace among nations, I propose a toast to the prosperity of this noble and friendly country, to the personal well-being of yourself and Mrs. Johnson, to the warm and firm friendship between our two peoples.

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

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