Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and President Senghor of Senegal

September 28, 1966

Mr. President, most distinguished guests:

I once heard about a man who, while strolling through a cemetery, saw a tombstone bearing this inscription: "Here lies a Lawyer--and an Honest Man." Naturally, he was surprised to learn that the grave held only one man--not two.

Well, I am more surprised today than he was.

Here among us in the White House sits the architect of a nation's constitution; an educator; a statesman; a historian--and a poet. And he is only one man--not five! If I were to compare you, Mr. President, with some figure from our history, I would have to call the names of Thomas Jefferson and Walt Whitman--and perhaps many others.

So from now on, when I am taken to task about my relations with intellectuals, I hope my learned critics will be convinced by this reply: "But what about President Senghor?"

Mr. President, our two nations are different in many ways.

America's independence is old--and yours is new.

But today I am thinking of the things that we have in common.

Your nation and mine are embarked on historic efforts to achieve social justice and economic progress for all of the citizens of our lands.

Your nation, like mine, knows that its future depends on the hope which education brings.

You and I--who both began as teachers-deeply share that conviction.

And we agree about the growing importance to the world of Africa's young nations.

In the United States, we admire the role that you and your people are playing in building the future of your continent. That is why we have welcomed the opportunity to work with you in building secondary and technical schools; and that is why we are proud to send Peace Corps volunteers to teach and learn in Senegal and throughout Africa.

I was so pleased to hear you make the observations you did this morning about the effectiveness of our Peace Corps.

We have seen the growing willingness among African nations to work together for progress. I believe the trend is clear: Africa's people are setting their course toward cooperation.

It is fitting that Leopold Senghor, who is a symbol of this cooperative spirit, is both a political leader as well as a leader of thought.

Of him, a biographer has written: "If this were not a topsy-turvy world, it would be governed by poets--for they are the most lucid of men .... Their glance is clear and ever new. They see and foresee."

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to join me in a toast to the people of Senegal and to their great leader, Leopold Senghor.

Note: The President spoke at 2:20 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House, at a luncheon honoring President Senghor. President Senghor responded as follows:

Mr. President, I would like, first of all, to express our thanks for the very cordial welcome afforded my delegation and myself.

We have, indeed, been deeply moved by it and particularly by the kind words you have just said.

They confirm in our eyes the friendship that unites our two peoples and which dates from before our independence.

Our gratitude is also coupled with the pleasure and honor we feel in being your guests today.

We have pleasure, indeed, to meet again as President the politician who represented his country at the celebration of the first anniversary of our independence and who, if I am not mistaken, has so far visited only Senegal in Africa.

And it is an honor for us to be the guests of the President of the United States of America, because this country which is as vast as a continent and is the most powerful in the world, has as its leader, Lyndon B. Johnson, a man of action but also a man of heart.

If I speak of the greatness of the United States of America, it is of a greatness in the size of its soul; of a spiritual and cultural greatness. As everybody knows, you are the largest producer of food, of energy, and of many other things. That is to say that you are the biggest agricultural and industrial power.

I do not need to mention your military potentiality. In a word, you are in the field of material forces the most powerful state in the world. This has been said very often and is only too well known all around the world.

The formidable power, as a matter of fact, inspires only my admiration insofar as these productive forces are created by the American spirit. I prefer to speak of your spiritual forces, which do more to stimulate my admiration and our admiration in Senegal.

This, indeed, is the spirit of your message on the State of the Union on January 4, 1965, in which you said:

"And so tonight now, in 1965, we begin a new quest for union. We seek the unity of man with the world that he has built--with the knowledge that can save or destroy him--with the cities which can stimulate or stifle him--with the wealth and machines which can enrich or menace his spirit."

There, indeed, lies your desire to save the soul and spirit which, since your independence, since the end of the colonial regime, 200 years ago, has been the major endeavor of the American Nation.

This imposes some reflection. The American spirit is, therefore, a spirit of research in freedom, of a free investigation in order to understand the world. But the American spirit is also a spirit of innovation in order to transform, together with the environment, the conditions of man and from there man himself.

That is what you call, with such a suggestive word, creativity.

Mr. President, you have often been presented abroad as the typical American. I consider it the highest praise that could be made of you, since the typical American is one who expresses the American spirit.

Your friend, the famous journalist, Alistair Cooke, tells us that you are not a stereotype. That American spirit which you embody, in the dynamic sense of the word mixing the faith and exhaustive energy of the pioneers, has first-rate intellectual power.

I believe, however, that in spite of this fact, you rate heart with brain. In any case, I only want to stress this generosity which leads you in your steady struggle for equal rights for all American citizens. This you have felt deeply and you have proclaimed very strongly in your speech on March 15, 1965, that democracy is not only liberty and equality. It is, above all, fraternity based on human dignity.

Thus, in assuring progressively, as you have done, civil rights for all, you, Mr. President, who have deep roots in the South, are reviving the old American spirit.

At the same time, you also express our contemporary spirit. For justice for all means today-with the fantastic means at the disposal of the United States--prosperity for all, the Great Society. As you proclaimed in your speech of March 15:

"The time of justice has now come. I tell you that I believe sincerely that no force can hold it back. It is right in the eyes of man and God that it should come. And when it does, I think that day will brighten the lives of every American."

Yes, Mr. President, in this I do believe: The dawn that comes up announces the rising sun, the great day of enlightenment and joy that is coming.

Many a tear and much blood may still have to be shed before that day comes, a day which will be the glory of America.

We are not discouraged. We never have lost our hope in America, because there is the Federal Government and because there are men of heart and conscience like you, President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In stating again our gratitude for the warm welcome afforded us, I want to stress the pleasure we feel in discovering, together with our similar ideals, the convergence of our endeavors which we have undertaken in order to assure to every citizen, to every man, his human dignity.

Your Excellencies, gentlemen, I invite you to toast the health of His Excellency, Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States of America, to the health of Mrs. Johnson, to whom I present the homage of my gratitude for the valuable help she brought to the First World Festival of Negro Arts, and to the greatness and happiness of the American people.

[As printed above, this item follows the text of the White House release.]

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

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