Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and President Stroessner of Paraguay

March 20, 1968

President Stroessner, Vice President and Mrs. Humphrey, Justice and Mrs. Brennan, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Mrs. Johnson and I were very happy to be able to welcome two visitors this morning--very important visitors: President Stroessner and the first day of spring.

I think it is appropriate, though, Mr. president, for me to put in a word here and warn you and caution you about our Washington climate. The political winds blow very strong around here. I have observed in the last few days that it can turn very chilly, very suddenly. A little reassessment will change the entire course of these things.

One famous American humorist, Mark Twain, must have been thinking of Washington when he once said: "In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours."

Mr. President, that is particularly true of Washington in election years.

Just last week, we had a new weather front move in very suddenly. This one came from up on the Hill of the United States Senate and caught some people just standing out in the cold. They had to start running just to keep warm.

But we, Mr. President, are very glad that we can offer you our warm hospitality here in this first house of the land tonight. I know you will agree with me that all of us can learn much from the family of Latin American nations. They are a family of nations that have learned to live together and to live in peace together.

There has been no fighting of any real significance among them for more than a quarter of a century now. Mr. President, this is the trend that should unite all of the continents in a common cause. This thing we call peace is a thing that we want most. It can be the contagious spirit that excites all mankind to the miracles that men can work if only men can learn to work together in trust--and in friendship--and in peace.

Mr. President, your administration's motto is "Peace and progress and work." I share your very deep conviction that there can be no lasting peace without genuine progress.

All men of all faiths want peace. But there are different kinds of peace; men have different judgments about the better ways to obtain peace.

The great Prime Minister of Great Britain thought of one way to get peace--Mr. Chamberlain---but he was disillusioned.

Another Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, thought of another way to get peace. As a consequence, many men had to pledge their lives, their blood, and their treasure.

But now it has been more than two decades. I think it has been confirmed in the eyes of history that a quick peace, an easy peace, is not necessarily a just peace-and a peace with honor that will last.

Frequently you can lose more lives with a phony peace than you can with a just one.

So, Mr. President, I know that you agree that there can be no genuine progress without peace in the world and without a fair reward for hard work. That statement will stand emphasis in this country--and in other countries in the world today. There can be no assurance of a fair reward unless people can share fully in all the aspects of their national life.

Mr. President, I have been thinking of your visit since we were together in Punta del Este and since the unity and peaceful nature of the nations of the Western Hemisphere was brought together there and we resolved to unite.

The United States tonight stands eager and ready to encourage such developments as are contained in your administration's motto throughout Latin America.

Mr. President, we take great pleasure, Mrs. Johnson and I, in welcoming you to this house as a leader who is trying his best to speed the growth of his nation and who, I have observed, is making contributions to the progress of this hemisphere.

As your representative of your country sits on the Security Council of the United Nations and works in his own way every day to try to better humanity, the American people take this opportunity to express to you, and through you to him and your people, our gratitude for his conscientious approach and his dedicated effort.

Ladies and gentlemen, I should like to ask all of you to join me in a toast to President Alfredo Stroessner and particularly to the good people of Paraguay.

[Following the toast the President continued speaking, as follows:]

Mr. President, when I was a young man in grade school one of my first declamations that I had to memorize contained the phrase that "The most beautiful vision these eyes ever beheld was the flag of my country in a foreign land."

One of the greatest honors that any citizen of the United States can have is the privilege of wearing a uniform of his country. The greatest honor that the President can bestow upon any man who wears that uniform on behalf of this Nation is the Medal of Honor. They come few and far between. They are given only to the most gallant and the most courageous and the most dedicated who have demonstrated in battle their love for freedom and liberty.

Tonight, Mrs. Johnson and I are privileged to have among us the parents of a young man who wore that uniform and wore it with pride and distinction and who never had a chance to see that Medal of Honor because he gave his life in order that we might live-just as this man [indicating portrait of Lincoln ] gave his life in order to preserve the Union.

I think it would be quite appropriate and I would ask that each of you join me in standing and paying silent tribute to 2d Lt. Robert J. Hibbs of 316 West 18th Street, Cedar Fails, Iowa, whose father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Walter E. Hibbs, are our guests here this evening.

Lieutenant Hibbs was awarded the highest decoration this Nation can give posthumously on January 26, 1967, for service above and beyond the call of duty for us.

Mr. Hibbs, will you and Mrs. Hibbs stand, please.

Note: The President spoke at 10:18 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House at a dinner honoring President Alfredo Stroessner. In his opening words he also referred to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Mrs. Humphrey, Associate Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Mrs. Brennan.

President Stroessner responded in Spanish, a translation of which follows:
Mr. President and Mrs. Johnson, ladies and gentlemen:

I feel a vivid emotion, as President of my country, to be at the White House beside the illustrious Chief Executive of the United States of America, who has elected to honor Paraguay in my person.

The White House is the symbol of the history of a great people and the official residence of eminent statesmen who have ruled from here the destiny of a noble and great federation of States, continuing with the thought the glorious George Washington initiated in this part of the world which first brought forth a government of, for, and by the people.

I am the bearer of a message of sincere friendship on the part of the Paraguayan people for the people of the United States of America. In this centennial of our great national ordeal as a nation, that still resounds and which we celebrate in this moment, is to be found the root of our will to be free, to be sovereign, and independent of all foreign power.

These are the causes that the forefathers of our country waved as a banner for human redemption, as an emblem of fraternity towards America and the world.

As a Paraguayan and as an American, I am honored to be seated at this table where President Johnson, in his high post as head of this Government, remembers the glorious past of my country and my people.

Today, President Johnson and I are renewing the fruitful and profitable personal conversations initiated on the occasion of the meeting of the American Presidents in Punta del Este. We have agreed that we should face together the many problems that confront our peoples' governments, using first of all our own spiritual and material resources-and then seeking the cooperation, solidarity, and mutual assistance of the other countries of the hemisphere which foster the noble ideal of an active, positive, and constructive pan-Americanism.

I consider it one of the great privileges of my life to again visit Washington after 15 years and to be able to establish a constructive dialogue with the eminent leader of this country, who, from his office, is defending with intelligence, patience, and valor the sacred principles of democracy and freedom in the world.

It is not an easy task to have the immense responsibility of conducting a country like yours, Mr. President.

You are serving your country, upholding its principles, and renewing its hopes and ideals in the march toward the formation of a better world-a world of peace, work, and happiness.

It is necessary, Mr. President, to possess--as you do--a high level of physical and moral energy in order to stay at the helm of a country which is at the forefront of the modern world. Your country is a glowing expression of the spiritual force of the new world, that weighs in the balance of justice, directing it to the final triumph of the common good.

I wish to express my deep gratitude for your splendid courtesy and friendship in recalling the glorious past of my people, always ready to defend its freedom. The people of the United States of America know that my country is ready to honor that past, firm in its determination to fight any menace to democracy and liberty.

This was clearly demonstrated not long ago when we were at the side of those who courageously assured the people of the Dominican Republic the privilege of governing themselves, by their sovereign will as expressed at the polling booths.

My visit to the hospitable land of liberty takes place shortly after I have once again received a clear-cut mandate from my people, freely expressed at the polls in a civic example seldom seen in my country.

This election was held with the participation of four political parties which reflect the various political beliefs in our country, and resulted in their participation in the three powers of the state. I have again accepted the honor of this responsibility as I have always maintained that, in a democracy, every citizen should serve the people to the extent of his ability, without expecting to be entitled to any personal gain.

My country is working in peace. I feel proud of the stability of its currency, of its republican institutions, and of its continued progress. Its potential wealth is fairly distributed throughout its territory, and only awaits our continued effort to incorporate it into the mainstream of the economy.

This economy is prospering from productive work and is fortified by the incorporation of foreign capital, which finds in our country the climate of respect, peace, and security that we have achieved, under ideal conditions for a profitable investment under protection of the law.

All of my efforts since assuming office would have been in vain if it were not for the heroic spirit of the Paraguayan people, which is legendary in this hemisphere.

The greatest homage we can render to the memory of our dead is to work ceaselessly to improve the nation which they defended with their supreme sacrifice.

My Government is dedicated to the acceleration of progress throughout our fertile land, which until now has not suffered from the population explosion which characterizes other regions of this planet.

Economic and social development is a common task of all the free countries of Latin America, and in this spirit, my country is ready to support continuously all the projects which work toward this great objective in order to achieve the goals of the Alliance for Progress.

These projects include the hydroelectric plant at Acaray, development of a great international highway system, and the improvement of a river communications complex serving our neighboring countries, as well as ourselves.

Mr. President, I have been moved with sincere emotion in Arlington Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknowns who died in the battle for freedom and democracy, and at the grave of the great President, John F. Kennedy, passed away.

Please accept, in the name of my party and me, our profound thanks for the magnificent demonstrations of friendship which we are receiving from your people and your Government, ever since we have been guests of this great and gracious country.

On returning to my country, I shall take with me the assurance of a friendship strengthened even further by the personal contact which we are maintaining in the best American spirit.

I raise a toast to the generous people of the United States of America, gallant exponents of a great cause and a great principle for which we shall fight side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder--for the personal good fortune of the distinguished Mrs. Johnson and for the illustrious President, Lyndon B. Johnson, who honors us with his moving and noble tributes, which I accept in the name of my people-for the happiness of all ladies and gentlemen who are here with us at this table of friendship, and for that of all the free peoples of the universe.

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

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