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Toasts of the President and President Suharto of the Republic of Indonesia

May 26, 1970

Mr. President, Mrs. Suharto, our distinguished guests:

We are very honored to have in this house the President of Indonesia and his wife and the members of their party.

In welcoming them, I speak not only in an official capacity but also in a very personal sense. I would first remind all of us in this room who are Americans, that we well might not be here had it not been that many, many years ago a sailor started out searching for Indonesia and found America.

In 1492 Christopher Columbus charted the seas in his search for what was then called the Spice Islands. That, of course, is now part of Indonesia. And on the way to the Spice Islands, he ran into America, and that is why we are here.

So we owe much to history. We have something in common.

We have something much more in common. I speak now in a personal sense. In 1953 I had the privilege, with Mrs. Nixon, of visiting Asia for the first time. We were introduced to Asia through Indonesia. It was the first Asian country we visited. It was well that that was the case because the welcome was warm. We learned in that 4-day visit to know about the people of Indonesia, the great historical background, Borobudur, 1 and also the tremendous promise as well as some of the problems.

In 1967 I returned to Indonesia, then as a private citizen--not at my own choice--but nevertheless as a private citizen. When I returned to Indonesia, I will always be grateful that Ambassador Green, now the Assistant Secretary for the Pacific area, asked me to meet the man who was to be the President of Indonesia, President Suharto; and the President graciously received me when I was out of office, at his home.

I recall so well the warmth of his welcome, seeing some of his children briefly, and also having the opportunity to talk to him about the problems of Indonesia, as in that critical year of 1967 it was moving on a new course under new leadership under the new President.

Then again last year we had the privilege of visiting Indonesia again, a very brief visit, but a chance to see what had transpired in the 2 years since we were there. We were tremendously impressed.

Then finally today, the President and Mrs. Suharto paid their first visit to America and their first visit to this house.

I give this chronology only for the purpose of reminding those in this room, all of whom are friends of Indonesia, of the fact that this is a very significant occasion, of reminding us all that this great republic of over 100 million people, 1 ,000 miles of islands, joining the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, that its future, its freedom, its independence of any domination, ours or anyone else's, is essential to peace and freedom in the Pacific and for America in the years ahead.

The President knows this. The President and his colleagues stand for this. And we in America are privileged that we can," with complete respect for Indonesia's independent status, always work with Indonesia for what the President wants for the people of Indonesia--a better life, progress for the people that we saw in such great numbers when we were there, and independence, freedom, these words that are used these days so loosely but that mean so much when nations do not have them.

In proposing the health of the President, I want to say that I mentioned this morning that Indonesia is the third most populous free nation of all the free nations. India, of course, is the most populous, the United States is second, and Indonesia is the third.

In the Pacific area, this great, vibrant, free nation of Indonesia is one that is essential to those things that we in this room, Indonesians and Americans, deeply believe in--the right of all people to choose their own way, the right of all people to be free, the right of all people to avoid having imposed upon them any government from abroad that they do not want. It is this that we want for Indonesia. It is this that we are privileged to work with them in the way that they believe is best for them toward those great goals.

To the man who has given to this great, strong country and its people the leadership that is needed at a time that was tremendously difficult, in a time of crisis, the man who was the man of the hour for Indonesia, as Abraham Lincoln was the man of the hour for America 100 years ago, it is my privilege to propose the health of the President of Indonesia.

To President Suharto.

1 Eighth-century Buddhist temple in central Java.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 10:03 p.m. at a dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House. See also Item 163.

President Suharto responded in Indonesian. His remarks, as read by his interpreter, follow:

Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon, distinguished guests:

Once more your eloquent and generous words fill me with gratitude. They bespeak a friendship and good will toward our people and myself. I can assure you, Mr. President, that these sentiments are fully reciprocated in the hearts and minds, not only of myself, my wife, and those of my party present here, but in the hearts and minds of all Indonesians.

It is with a feeling of deep emotion that I stand here before you tonight. For to me and to millions of my countrymen, America is more than just a geopolitical entity, a great and abundant land, 200 million people strong, endowed with technological and economic prowess that makes it one of the superpowers of the world. The America we see beyond this is the America that is the cradle of modern democracy, the seedbed of the first successful struggle against colonial domination, the birthplace of a Washington, a Jefferson, a Lincoln, and a Martin Luther King.

In the last quarter of the 18th century you rounded man's quest for human dignity and for a political system that would insure these values. The fact that America is the oldest nation living under the same written Constitution is of deep significance to me for I come from an old civilization but a young nation, which is still in the process of building the viable political institutions that could insure these same values in a different cultural and historical setting.

We are now moving into the last quarter of this 20th century. The challenges that face us have changed because the new problems that have emerged have changed--in nature and in scope.

There is the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor nations of the world, a gap not merely in terms of wealth but in knowledge and modern skills as well. There is the problem of the population explosion that threatens to negate all that man has achieved so far. In each of our societies problems have emerged that concern the quality of life for each of our citizens, problems of poverty and injustice and the destruction of human ecology.

There is a special problem that is of grave concern to all of us, that of war raging in various parts of the world. It is even of more concern to us in Asia, for instead of the peace we hoped for, the threat of a new war is spreading. Cambodia is now being engulfed in the fires of war. Here the problem is even more complex. Because what is at issue here is the threat against the sovereignty and the integrity of a nation, a threat against the right of the Khmer people to maintain the neutrality they have chosen. We cannot afford just to wait; for the sake of peace and stability in Southeast Asia, all efforts should be taken to prevent the war from widening and to insure the preservation of Cambodia's right to sovereignty and neutrality, among other things, by effecting the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Cambodian territory.

It was on the basis of those considerations that Indonesia, as a nonaligned state which pursues an independent and active foreign policy, has taken the initiative to convene a Conference of Foreign Ministers of Asian countries. This conference has just been concluded in Djakarta and has taken a clear and appropriate stand on the Cambodian issue. The nations of Asia have started to take it upon themselves to meet the challenges that Asia faces today.

Of most of these problems it can be said that they are universal in nature, if not always in scope, and therefore impervious to piecemeal or country-by-country solution. Their solution will require international action and the pooling of all the wisdom and experience that man collectively possesses. Their solution will not be the monopoly of the rich, nor for that matter, the exclusive battle cry of the poor. But both will have to join forces in a common quest to preserve civilized life on this earth in the decades to come.

Thus, Mr. President, at present the world is once again looking at the United States for the contribution that it could give in the search for answers to the challenges mankind is facing today.

In this, Mr. President, Indonesia considers itself most fortunate to have you as a friend, a President of the United States, a world leader, who by personal disposition, as well as experience, is so thoroughly familiar with the problems, the hopes, and aspirations of Asia, including Southeast Asia to which my country belongs. Furthermore, Mr. President, you are the first American President to have visited Indonesia three times in the past.

Your continued interest in my country and your sympathetic understanding of our aspirations as well as our problems give me great hope that the deepening friendship between our two countries will accelerate the attainment of a stable, prosperous, and democratic Indonesia, which in turn could enhance the chances for stability, prosperity, and freedom in the whole of Southeast Asia.

It is in this spirit that I ask all of you to join me in a toast to the friendship between the American and Indonesian peoples, to your health and well-being, Mrs. Nixon, and to the health and well-being of the President of the United States.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and President Suharto of the Republic of Indonesia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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