Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and President Tubman of Liberia.

March 27, 1968

President and Mrs. Tubman, Vice President and Mrs. Humphrey, Secretary and Mrs. Rusk, ladies and gentlemen:

While I was doing my homework for president Tubman's visit, I came across a Liberian proverb that will serve as my text tonight. "A man who is asked to talk an inch and speaks a yard should be given a foot."

I very much appreciate the warning, Mr. President. In the present circumstances, I think it would be rather extravagant for me to encourage any man to give me the foot.

It would also be an extravagance for me to talk at length about our most distinguished guest tonight. He is one of the truly legendary leaders of our time. Americans have known him and admired him for more than a quarter of a century now:

--as the symbol of the first and oldest free republic in Africa;

--as the architect of Liberian unity and the builder of Liberia's modern growth;

--as a farsighted statesman whose influence today is a very powerful force for African unity in the world;

--as the staunch and dependable foe of aggression, as well as a stalwart guardian of peace;

--as a faithful friend who visits us often, and never fails to leave us with the gifts of his wisdom and his strength.

We are also aware that President Tubman has just been elected to his sixth term in office. This Nation is very happy to share the confidence of your people and to wish all of you good fortune, sir.

I was quite pleased to ask Vice President Humphrey to go as my special envoy to your inauguration. Upon that occasion he was supposed to deliver a very personal message to you, and I hope that he got it straight. When I approached the Vice President, he said, "This will make President Tubman's 24th year in office."

Then he said to me, "What shall I offer him, Mr. President--your congratulations or your condolences?"

Mr. President, I do want to offer you my congratulations this evening--congratulations on your shrewd political sense. Today your party is known as the True Whig Party. You were very wise, I think, in scrapping the old title--the Grand Old Party.

That party seems to be enjoying some increasing popularity in this country--certainly here at this table tonight.

Though the emphasis of your life, Mr. President, has always been on deeds, I would like to conclude now by recalling some of your words for those who have come here from across the land tonight.

You have challenged your own people and the peoples of Africa to avoid the pitfalls of the past and to seize the brightest promise of the future. Speaking to the Conference of Independent African States, you had this to say:

"We can avoid the fatal luxury of racial bigotry, class hatred, and disregard for the natural rights of all men to be free and independent. Our liberty and our resources should not be used for the political or economic enslavement of other peoples, but for their advancement and improvement; and thereby lay for ourselves and our posterity an enduring foundation upon which our entire future may rest."

That is a challenge that Americans can understand. Mr. President, we accept it in our own land and in every land where the promise of liberty has yet to be fulfilled for every human being.

We accept your leadership and your partnership, Mr. President, in the faith that has joined our two nations for more than a century and a half. We are grateful and we are proud to reach forward with you into the next century, and even beyond.

So my friends, I will ask you now to toast that journey and to toast that kinship that will brighten our way. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a toast to our faithful friends, the people of Liberia, President Tubman, and his gracious lady, who honors us with her presence.

Note: The President spoke at 10:05 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House at a dinner honoring President William V. S. Tubman of Liberia. In his opening words he also referred to Vice President and Mrs. Hubert H. Humphrey and Secretary of State and Mrs. Dean Rusk.
President Tubman responded as follows:

Your Excellency, President Johnson; Mrs. Johnson; Excellencies; distinguished ladies and gentlemen:

Mrs. Tubman and the members of my party join me in extending to you, Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson, and to the American people, sincere thanks for the very warm and cordial reception we have received everywhere since our arrival in your historic and great country.

We are most grateful to you, Mr. President, for the high compliment you have paid us and for your kind references to the traditional relationship which binds our two nations and people together.

We are aware that even the most durable friendship can benefit from intermittent periods of renewal. This is especially important when friends share mutually cherished ideals and aspirations; when they can exchange ideas on issues of immediate and urgent concerns, not only to themselves, but to mankind everywhere, and when they can together chart the course along which they may choose to travel. Thus have we come in this time of tension and unrest to renew the bonds of our friendship, to exchange ideas, to rest, reset our compass and give new dimensions and new perspectives for our century-old relationship.

Much is at stake. Our own destiny is involved in the events now unfolding on the world scene. In some parts of this world, including our own continent of Africa, millions of people are still grappling with the problems of wasting disease, abject poverty, illiteracy, hunger, and underdevelopment.

These peoples possess the natural resources. They have the will and the desire to work and develop those resources. But unfortunately, they lack the capital and the technical know-how so essential to their future progress.

They must, therefore, look to the developed nations for assistance in developing these resources.

We express the hope that working with such friends as you, Mr. President, and your great Government, the United Nations and its specialized agencies--as well as other global organizations--a new beam of sunshine will radiate itself on the international spectrum, dispersing the dark clouds of despair and save mankind from the awful consequences of a world conflagration.

Your great Nation, Mr. President, is--and must always remain--the bastion of freedom, the depository of democracy, and the citadel of hope for millions of people around the earth.

Mainly upon your shoulders, Mr. President, have been thrust the weighty and awesome responsibilities of defending liberty, of upholding justice, and of assisting in securing the peace.

It would appear to me that the statement made by your late President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his day applies--when he said, "This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny." So it seems to continue in your day, Mr. President. We have not brought you, Mr. President, nor your Government, any magic formula for winning the peace. But we have brought with us the greatest gift of our people---the reassurance of our firm and steadfast support, our good will, and our sincere wishes for the continuing progress and success of Your Excellency and the people of the great United States of America.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join Mrs. Tubman and me in toasting warmly to the health of President Johnson, Mrs. Johnson, the Government and people of the great United States of America.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Toasts of the President and President Tubman of Liberia. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/238187

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