Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and President Segni

January 14, 1964

Mr. President, I know that I speak not only for the distinguished guests here tonight, but also I speak for all Americans when I tell you how very pleased we are that you are with us and how honored we are to have the Chief of State of the Republic of Italy and his lady visiting in our United States.

Mr. President, I was once told that the difference between a farmer and an agriculturalist was that the farmer earned his money on the farm and spent it in the city, while the agriculturalist earned his money in the city and spent it on the farm. By those definitions, Mr. President, it seems to me that you and I are a combination of both. It seems that both of us were raised on the land and we have never forgotten the land, and now, by a combination of circumstances, both of us have responsibilities which require us to look beyond the land, yes, even beyond the cities, and to look at the world at large.

In a sense, both of us are probably Jeffersonian Democrats in the very finest and in the very broadest sense of that term. Our early years and experience brought home to us first and foremost the needs of the common man. Our later responsibilities have given us the unique opportunity to try to do something about filling those needs. Fortunate as we are, both of us, to be national leaders, we must know that our responsibilities go far beyond our own borders.

In this half of the 20th century, it is the responsibility of national leadership to assure that everything possible is being done to make this a better world for all people to live in. But, Mr. President, if we are to inspire others with our hopes for peace and freedom, we must make doubly sure that in our own countries there is actually freedom from want and freedom from fear, and in the truest sense the fullest measure of social justice.

Mr. President, you have made your own substantial contributions to these goals. Your great work in land and educational reform in Italy, as well as your personal contribution to the reestablishment of Italian democracy and to Italy's resumption of its place in the world of nations are very great achievements of which you must be mighty proud. They represent progressive steps, progressive steps forward in the direction in which free peoples must continue to move.

This has been a most satisfying day to renew our friendship and to enjoy our companionship again. On several occasions I have been the guest of the distinguished President of Italy in his home country, and it gives me a great deal of pride and pleasure to have in this room tonight not only some of the most distinguished citizens of this land, but some of the persons closest to me, and I should like to appeal to all of you to join me in raising our glass in a toast for a peaceful and prosperous future for the good people of Italy, for the Government of Italy, and particularly for the great President and his First Lady.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House. President Segni responded as follows:

Mr. President, I am deeply grateful to you for the cordial welcome you have extended to me and for the truly friendly turn you have given to our talks today.

Minister Saragat and I are convinced that these, and the meeting we will hold tomorrow with you, Mr. President, with Mr. Rusk, and with other members of your administration will make the collaboration between our two countries ever more effective.

The direct contact with this magnificent reality which is America, with its powerful dynamism and with its deep moral sense is always highly stimulating. And you, Mr. President, embody this reality! I already had the pleasure of meeting you in Rome and I was immediately impressed, during our talks, by your statesmanship and by your personality. Today I find you at the head of the American Nation and I note with the pride of a friend that you tackle your heavy responsibilities with the serene awareness which is the first and main quality in a leader.

Your first acts of government have met a unanimous approval. Let me recall your wide and realistic approach to the major problems of our time in your message on the State of the Union.

I am also grateful to you for the way in which you have stressed the close and friendly relations between Italy and the United States. My visit enables me to reconfirm once again the common ideals and intents of our two peoples, linked by strong ties of civilization, of tradition, of culture, of brotherhood.

The trustworthy, magnanimous, generous American people, for whom we have in Italy the greatest and most sincere admiration and whose greatness has been accomplished also through the contribution of millions of Italians and of Americans of Italian descent--as you so kindly have recalled, Mr. President--has always been concretely and actively close to Italy. This closeness has been proved not only by many acts of the American Government but appears also continuously through a host of individual generous acts in our difficult times as it happened in particular in the years in which we reconstructed Italy after the war. Italians do not forget those who have come to our side with spontaneous generosity and in the spirit of Christian brotherhood.

I wish at this point to pay, on behalf of the whole Italian people, my most deferential and warm respects to the late John Fitzgerald Kennedy, an unyielding fighter for liberty and progress.

In Italy we consider the defense of the spiritual values from which the United States has always fought, from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln, to John Fitzgerald Kennedy, as essential for the world.

These very same values have inspired the masters of our Risorgimento and of Italian democracy, from Mazzini to Garibaldi, from Cavour to all those who, like De Gasperi, have toiled to give Italy free institutions and to give the country a new place in the family of nations.

The great Western Alliance represents without any doubt the most valid defense of such values. It is, therefore, obvious that both you and we give to it a determined and constant contribution, in the military as well as in the political field, believing that in this way we serve the cause of our independence, of peace and of democracy.

We likewise believe that a United Europe will represent, within the framework of the free world, a dynamic force far more effective than the one provided by the sum of the various European countries. Our desire for a united Europe is not born out of selfishness; it is intended as a further contribution to the Atlantic Community, in complete agreement with the ideals and responsibilities of the United States.

With the same dedication we give our greatest possible contribution to the United Nations, who, with their untiring efforts, have promoted the social progress of all the peoples and have contributed to the development of friendly relations among them.

Italy believes that the peoples of all continents will unite in an extensive process of evolution according to the laws of a free and harmonious development and is determined to contribute to such a process as fully as her forces permit.

In all these directions, our two countries collaborate closely and actively. We trust, therefore, that the difficult dialogue opened by the West with the Moscow agreements--which Italy has been glad to sign--will be continued in the interest of the whole of mankind, without, however, giving up our indispensable security and those supreme values of justice and freedom which are our most sacred common heritage.

With this hope and with this wish, I offer a toast to your health, Mr. President, to the prosperity of the noble American Nation, and to the indestructible friendship of our two countries.

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

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