Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and President Trejos of Costa Rica

June 04, 1968

President Trejos and Mrs. Trejos, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Mr. President, we welcome you and your lady to this First House of the land as the democratic leader of a country with a long democratic tradition.

The President and I spent a very pleasant and productive day together. We had a third party attending most of our discussions. I am happy tonight to thank Mother Nature for bringing so much sunshine today to our meeting. The lovely weather today was a great relief to the people in the State Department.

You know, Mr. President, they are always so grateful over in Foggy Bottom, where our State Department is located, for even the very smallest ray of sunshine of any kind. But they also had a very special reason for being anxious about your visit.

The Secretary of State and the Chief of Protocol were just a little nervous. They thought they might have to negotiate with Mother Nature to arrange a very special reception for you, something that they thought would try to equal the spectacular show that you put on the last time an American President visited in your country.

I am told that when President Kennedy arrived in Costa Rica in 1963, a volcano erupted. If that had happened to me, Mr. President, I would have felt perfectly at home.

You have been in Washington now, Mr. President, for more than 10 hours. There are not many days when this political capital can go that long without some natural eruption. But we may still be able to put on a proper show for you. Later tonight we might pick up some tremors from a disturbance out in California.

Since I got out of politics, I don't know whose side Mother Nature is on out there, but she is certainly being courted by all of the candidates. One of them is praying for an earthquake to bury his opponent; one of them is praying for an upheaval; and a third candidate is just praying from a safe distance.

I understand, Mr. President, that Costa Rica has solved one of the problems of election campaigns that still troubles and vexes us here in the United States.

In your country the Congress appropriates funds to cover the campaign expenses of the presidential candidates. I believe anyone who gets 10 percent of the votes in Costa Rica is reimbursed in proportion to the number of votes he receives.

When Lady Bird was reading over the background book the State Department sent over, she looked up at me in the wee hours this morning and said, "Lyndon, you ran in the wrong country in 1964."

But the way things are going here in 1968, Mr. President, I expect some candidates may also recall what Will Rogers once said: "Politics has got so expensive that it takes lots of money," in this country, "to even get beat with."

The revolutionary times in which we live teach three lessons about the quest for freedom that we all cherish so much. They are not new, but because of recent events they have been given new meaning.

The first is that tyranny cannot suppress the human longing for liberty. This ancient truth remains as valid in the world of technology in the 20th century as it did many centuries ago when our common creed of freedom developed on the shores of the Mediterranean.

The second is that the defense of liberty sometimes carries a very heavy price. The people of South Vietnam and their allies know very well that freedom does not come free. I pray that the aggressors will someday come to understand the full depth of our resolve, as President Kennedy once said, to "pay any price, bear any burden . . . to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

The third is that democracy does not come in a single model. Each people knows how best to adapt the mechanics of representative government to the special needs of its people. We do not seek to impose a particular system. But we will defend the right of a people to determine their own destiny, free from coercion, and we are not fooled by false models.

Mr. President, your country, Costa Rica, and the United States differ in size. But they are equal in what really counts most--their love of liberty and freedom. That is the most cherished bond that unites the United States and Costa Rica.

The United States will never forget how quickly Costa Rica joined our cause after Pearl Harbor when we were attacked. We remember the prompt offer of ports and airfields during the terrible Cuban missile crisis. We remember that Costa Rican guardsmen stood shoulder to shoulder with our soldiers and those of the other American Republics to guard the peace in the Dominican Republic and to safeguard and to preserve the right of self-determination for the Dominican people.

I am particularly grateful to you, personally, Mr. President, for your always strong support, your strong moral support, in the defense of freedom in Asia.

Ladies and gentlemen, those of you who have come here from across the Nation to pay honor to this distinguished leader of our neighboring country, I should like to ask you to rise to toast the cause of liberty throughout the world and to toast one of its greatest champions, President Jose Trejos--teacher, scholar, statesman, citizen, and President of the sister Republic of Costa Rica.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 10:15 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. During his remarks he referred to Dean Rusk, Secretary of State, and Angier Biddle Duke, Chief of Protocol.

President Jose Joaquin Trejos Fernandez responded as follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson, ladies and gentlemen:

I wish I had this fine humor, the fine spirit of President Johnson, to express my feelings more freely and not in the rather formal way that I have to take to read in Spanish. I would make up some other minor things, but that grace and that fine spirit, unfortunately, I do not have at all.

We are pleased, Mr. President, by the great interest in the Costa Rican nation and the constant increase in the centers of teaching which we have carried to even the most remote and smallest of our towns and villages, trying to make them every day better and more complete.

We are stimulated by the constant clamor of our rural and urban communities to have better services of public health and hygiene.

It is a source of great satisfaction to us to see the constant demands of our simple farmers to have better ways of communication, roads and highways that go deeper, and the opening up of new areas.

But most of all, we are proud of the passion of the Costa Rican people in the defense of the liberties of man and of his dignity as a human being, and for the respect of the results of the ballot box.

You, Mr. President, who began your life as a public servant by teaching young people as a grammar school teacher, and I who left my place as a professor to accept the public office which I now hold, agree in the high esteem that we give to the educational activity of the government to this high concept that we have of the school and of the educator as shapers of the future of our countries and of the high place that we grant them as key pieces in a strategy for the development of people.

We have been fortunate in Costa Rica. The imagination of our leaders for independence was captured in the early days by the ideals of Jefferson, of Paine, of Adams, and of Hamilton, who, together with other great men, were building this grand experiment of a democratic system of government.

Later on in the century, the apostle of the poorest man and his disciples for a broader dissemination of primary schools as an indispensable base of effective democracy found a favorable response in our governments which, since that time, set forth as slogans of action to build more roads and to open more schools.

We still share this and hold this aspiration, but not as just a total program of the government which exhausts thus the lists of the duties of the government, because to those postulates which I have mentioned, we have added during this century the ideals in insuring better health for the people, a larger degree of social justice for the workers.

Since by good fortune we have been able to do without military expenditures that other nations have to take, practically all of our total public income is devoted to expenses in the field of education, health, social welfare, and public roads.

You have been kind enough to praise my country because of its vocation for peace and for democratic life.

On my part, I must tell you, interpreting the sentiments of the Costa Rican people, we admire you for the struggle that this powerful nation is waging on 1,000 fronts in favor of the survival of democracy and the fighting abroad against totalitarianism and in your internal fighting against incomprehension and the inertia that serve as a brake to social progress.

We know of your efforts to achieve the elimination of social inequalities and to ease the life of the groups that are more weak economically and of your efforts to give the Alliance for Progress the dimensions that are required in order that we may make of our America the continent of hope.

On behalf of my people, on behalf of Costa Rica, I tell you, thank you very much, President Johnson.

I know that I faithfully interpret the sentiments of the Costa Rican people in expressing our gratitude to you as I have just done. But I would like to give the Costa Rican people, whom you have praised so highly, an opportunity for you to know how great their appreciation for your country and for you is.

I take pleasure in extending to you the warmest invitation for you to visit Costa Rica together with Mrs. Johnson as our most distinguished guests at a time which you consider opportune.

I still have the hope that your duties will not be an obstacle for you to accept this invitation.

Until I can speak in my own country these words, let me express now my most fervent hope for the United States of America, for you, its distinguished President, and for your gracious First Lady, Mrs. Johnson.

President Johnson, Mrs. Johnson, ladies and gentlemen, nothing that I could have brought with me in writing could really express in any sense the deep sentiment and emotion that I feel at this time and that the members of the party accompanying me feel in being here on this occasion because I feel this is a feeling of, perhaps, one that has never been achieved before that inter-American friendship is a reality.

I say this because in looking around me I see the faces of friendship that surround us and even more than faces of friendship, perhaps I see the expressions of brotherhood on the faces of each and every one of the persons who are with us here.

The feeling that I am talking about is this atmosphere, this spirit that flows around us and binds us, perhaps above anything else that we might think of because this is the spirit that we feel that we must all exert every possible effort to do everything that we can to raise the dignity of man throughout the world, to do this to each family of each man throughout all the countries of the world.

Because to raise the dignity of man, to elevate the dignity of man means to provide him with an atmosphere in which he can live with freedom in its fullest dimension.

We cannot conceive that he can begin to do this if any man is subject to a dictatorship, no matter what its nature or orientation might be.

So, we find and we feel that human dignity and democracy are united as one. I see that here. What gives me this emotion, and that is a very natural one and a historical one, and for a thousand reasons I feel this is an event that we will always treasure for the rest of our lives because it represents the spirit that we share which is in turn a representation of the noblest humanist ideals of man.

May God bless our continent, Latin America, and the United States in our own united goal that we be united in the future and may God bless this great family of President and Mrs. Johnson.

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

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