Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and President Tsiranana

July 27, 1964

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen:

Four years ago the land of our guest regained its independence. As head of the new republic the President asked his legislative branch to impose an independence tax upon the people. The purpose was not to raise revenue but to impress upon the people that independence was not a gift. As sometimes happens even in Washington, the legislative branch was not too receptive to the suggestion.

But we honor the President for all he has done to make it clear that independence means taking up new responsibilities, not laying them down.

The American people have taken up many responsibilities these days around the world. Those burdens are not light. The way we have chosen is neither short nor smooth. But we entertain no thought of casting off hose responsibilities and leaving them at the roadside of history.

We in America have only one policy, only one purpose, and one pursuit, and that is victory for freedom. When that victory for freedom is won, it will be a victory for responsibility among nations, young and old, small and large.

We in the United States take great encouragement from the model of moderate and mature leadership that our guest and other leaders like him offer the newly independent nations.

We welcome the close relationship between us. We are especially grateful that our countries can be associated in the great efforts of space exploration for the good of all mankind.

The President and I met all too briefly 3 years ago in Dakar. Today that friendship has deepened and grown.

We discovered that we were both born in cattle country of parents with meager means. In the 1930's we were both teachers. We both entered public service in the legislative branch.

There is one difference: the President is not up for election until next year.

The road of opportunity under freedom and democracy is a road that all men may walk on all sides of the world. It is a road that we intend to keep open and to keep it wide open for all men whatever their race, their region, their faith, or their flag.

So, this is a happy privilege to be gathered here this evening under the sky and the stars with many of our friends from throughout the Nation and some of the leaders in all forms of public life in this country.

And to our friends who have come to pay honor to this leader, I should now like to ask you to join with me in a toast to the President of the Malagasy Republic--to the friendship between our peoples, to the victory for freedom toward which we all work together--Mr. President.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a state dinner held in the Rose Garden at the White House. President Tsiranana responded as follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson, Members of the Cabinet and Members of Congress:

I shall speak since I feel it is incumbent upon me to do so, but I know that I shall not be as eloquent as you, Mr. President.

I speak as a duty and perhaps as a responsibility of being a chief of state, as you pointed out.

I should like to thank you on behalf of the Malagasy people and on behalf of the Malagasy Government and in my own name, in the name of my wife. We thank you, your wife, the American people, and the American Government for receiving us here tonight and for conferring such great honor and such friendship upon us, because it is indeed a very great honor for us to come and visit your great country.

As I was telling Secretary Rusk today at lunch, we are happy and proud to be in a country which was once a colony and which, today, is the greatest country in the world. We take great pride in this even though we only have been independent for 4 years and you have been independent for close to 200 years.

We know how glorious your history is. We know that the American people love freedom, and we recognize how the American people love freedom, and I shall tell you very simply how I came to recognize and understand that the American people love freedom.

I was here in 1959 and I noticed most of all that even the small houses in the country had no fences around them. I understood then that the American people were very fond of freedom when I saw there were no fences around any of the houses. I saw a school and my reaction was the same. I asked about this and the reply which came to me was, "We want the children to feel free, so there are no fences around the school."

This is a small thing perhaps, but it denotes a state of mind-- the love of freedom in the American people, a freedom for which the American people have struggled hard. And we also know that the American people love democracy. The two cannot be divided, and this is a wonderful example which has been given to us young nations.

I very often speak against some self-styled free countries. For instance, I do not care for the regime in the eastern part of the world. When I was in Berlin and looked at the wall, I knew that there was no freedom there.

So, my dear Mr. President, there is much that we can take from you, our eider sister nation, in the struggle that you have waged for freedom. The Malagasy people are also much attached to freedom.

I should not like to sound here as if I were boasting, but if in the whole world of today there are only two countries which love freedom and independence, then Malagasy is the second. If there is only one such country in the world, then perhaps that country is my own country.

You have said, Mr. President, that we are very much alike. In a sense, we are. You came from a cattle-raising family and I myself was herding cows as a child. My parents were raising cattle and, later on, I became a teacher and then deviated into politics, and I am caught in the public of my small country.

But there is indeed something that we have very much in common. Since you have referred to the elections, Mr. President, let me say that the Malagasy people love freedom very much and that we admired your predecessor, President Kennedy, very much. We sensed his love of freedom and we sense that you also, Mr. President, love freedom.

We know that you have displayed much courage in your support of the entire segregation legislation. The Malagasy people have followed your efforts very closely, and we thank you for all you have done even though we ourselves are not American, but anything that is done anywhere to promote the cause of mankind is very dear to us.

You stand in the forefront of liberty and human brotherhood. My wish is that you shall succeed in the forthcoming election, and I shall make a special prayer that the good Lord be with you and help you to carry the success that that wish shall be yours and also that there shall be peace in the whole world and in the United States.

I invite you, ladies and gentlemen, to join with me in a toast to the success of the President in the forthcoming election, to his health, and to peace in the world.

Long live America and long live Madagascar.

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

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