Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Aldo Moro of Italy

April 20, 1965

Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Longworth, distinguished guests:

It was 100 years ago that Mark Twain journeyed from the heartland of America to your country, Mr. Prime Minister, and in one sentence unveiled the eternal appeal of Italy. "Simply say," he wrote, "that the Creator made Italy from designs by Michelangelo."

When the world was young, Italy was wise. The world is older now, but the wisdom of Italy is everlasting.

In our libraries reside Horace and Dante. In our courts are the ageless charters of Roman law and Roman order. In our museums are the great masters, whose names and style and value are unmistakably Italian. We have some great singers who are unmistakably Italian here tonight and, Mr. Prime Minister, in the highest councils of this Government-Secretary Celebrezze, Senator Pastore, Congressman Rodino, and a dozen or more who serve with him in the House. Yes, even in the most inner circles of the White House--Mr. Valenti--are men whose antecedents are also unmistakably Italian. And they seldom ever let me forget it.

Your nation's culture has endured, Mr. Prime Minister, because it contains values that are enduring, values that tower beyond the oceanic upheavals of today's crises, and values that uplift the human spirit in every generation in every land.

It is very hard at my desk to sift out of each day's business what will last and what will perish, but the leader of each country must try to do that or he must pay the consequences before the judgment seat of history. So, the aim of my country now in the struggle in southeast Asia is to defend universal and lasting values. That is why we are so deeply grateful to the good people of Italy for their unwavering support of our efforts.

Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Foreign Minister, we seek not to preserve what never should have been. We fight tonight to protect the right as ancient as man, the right of people to guide their own destiny. Our aim in Viet-Nam is clear--to give the people of that little country a chance to choose their way to the future without the terror of aggression from their neighbors.

There is no soil in Asia, or anywhere else, that we covet. There is no territory in Asia, or anywhere else, that we seek to conquer. There are no bases that we seek to hold. There is only the stake that all free men have in South Viet-Nam's efforts to stand on its own feet, and to choose its own path.

If those efforts fail, more than a nation dies. There are 99 others that are watching this outcome with anxiety tonight, but the right of self-determination dies with it, and the hope of people all over the world who strive to fashion out of their own culture and their own history the kind of a nation that they want.

The people of Italy and the people of the United States are deeply committed to this unchanging principle. Together we believe in, together we work for, the right of other people to decide for themselves.

Our objective is simple. We want truly independent nations to emerge on the world scene, each shaped by the people who live and work and die there. For we believe, Mr. Prime Minister, that these people will choose liberty and these people will choose peace.

I suppose that it is always very difficult for an Italian, an American, and a Frenchman to agree on anything. But I know the Prime Minister and I both agree with that great Frenchman, de Tocqueville, who said, "The democratic revolution is the most permanent tendency which is to be found in history."

This is why we shall continue, your country and mine, why we shall continue to work together in so great a cause as the independence of people, the independence of other nations who want so much what we already have.

In Latin America tonight we are working with our sister nations in an enterprise of freedom. We are striving to unleash the wonders of agriculture, science, and engineering. The thousands and thousands of people of Italian blood who live in Latin America cause you to want to extend your own helping hand m them.

So I rejoice in this worldwide Italian interest, an interest that your government and your people have manifested, by participating in both international and inter-American organizations to speed the economic and social progress of this hemisphere, too. And tonight I invite your government to discuss with us how we might cooperate further in the development programs of Latin America. I discussed this with Minister Fanfani when I was in his country a few months ago.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, you come to a land, and you come to a house, where your friends are legion, and where the blood of your nation runs strong and runs deep. You come as a new visitor but also as an old and trusted friend.

So, I salute you as a friend and companion, as a leader in the community of Europe, as a wise and respected voice on the stage of the world.

So, my fellow countrymen, whom we are privileged to have here with us this evening, my welcome visitors, I would hope that you would join me in expressing our gratitude to Italy, the fountainhead of our culture, the parent of so many of our citizens, as we gather here in this house and toast the noble President of the Republic of Italy.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House. Prime Minister Moro responded as follows:

"Mr. President:

"It is with deep gratification that I find myself in the United States in the capacity of Prime Minister of the Republic of Italy, together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honorable Amintore Fanfani, and in that spirit I wish to express to you our gratitude for the very warm welcome that you have bestowed upon us and for the opportunity. you have offered us to meet with you for a thorough and frank exchange of views on the issues that so closely affect the interests and destinies of our two allied and friendly countries.

"It is hardly necessary for me, Mr. President, to recall that the ties that bind us are inscribed in history, the very history that, in opening up to mankind a new continent, has given today's world the gift of the very real image of a free and democratic society.

"The ties that join us are many and deep-rooted. The millions of Italians who have found here a fraternal welcome have given life to a profound and fruitful kinship between our two peoples. Nor will there ever be enough said of the assistance given by the United States at a time when our country was emerging from the ravages of war. With this assistance, in fact, America not only helped us but all of Europe and set for us the unique example of a country which, emerging in victory from the hardest and cruelest of conflicts, turned with all of its might and energies to the aid of the Old Continent to help it to overcome its plight. This, too, is a mark of the generosity and dedication to the ideals that so symbolize the American Nation, Mr. President.

"But beyond these valid and substantial relations, Italy and the United States possess together a paramount blessing, the blessing of liberty. It is from liberty that both the American Revolution and the Italian Risorgimento--which has found its fulfillment in the democratic rebirth of our countries, drew their irreversible thrust. In it today our two countries find a vital new encouragement in pursuing the great objectives that inspire our policies, first and foremost among which are peace and security. From this love of liberty also flow the actions that we have been in a position to undertake together to bring about and establish conditions of common defense, the necessity for a closer association of Western countries, the search for a solution of the problems that, especially at this hour, are facing Europe.

"In this spirit, Mr. President, allow me to torn my attention to two fundamentals of our political action, the more so because they both directly or indirectly affect the general pattern of our cooperation with the United States--Atlantic policy and European policy.

"The validity of the Atlantic policy which we have chosen with a clear vision of the interests and ideals that unite our two peoples, rests upon the recognition that it has promoted the social and economic rebirth of the free world in a framework of security which, in torn, is the condition for the safeguarding of the peace. We believe that the Atlantic Alliance, to the extent that it may upset the plans of those who would prefer not to be faced by a combined or unitary complex of democratic peoples, represents to this extent in the current world context an element of stability and balance and a premise for the development of that policy of relaxation to which we all look forward, even in these difficult hours, with the greatest of expectations.

"The second element is Europe. As we have already had the opportunity to say to you during the course of our conversations, we consider the construction of Europe to be a vital element in the framework of the civilization to which we belong, and an important factor for the democratic and social development and the peaceful order of the world. This is why we have dedicated ourselves to this task so earnestly, though it is no easy task. Many criticisms may be voiced against the European theories but it certainly cannot be said European unity runs against history.

"In Europe, both in our minds and in reality, the events that shape political facts could never be construed as an element of counterpoint or simply as a mere casual commitment within a wider context of the Western community. What, in fact, does Europe represent if not the great forging of our civilization of which America today is the driving power that has nourished the great common ideals with renewed vigor ?

"I should like on this occasion to recall the farsighted approach of your great predecessor, whose memory is still so much alive in us and in the world. He said, 'To Europe we say unite, to be strong, to join with us as a partner in solving the problems of other parts of the world in the same way as, years ago, the United States assisted Europe in rebuilding its strength. Even today, in this period of reflection on European developments, this noble goal remains present and valid.

"Italy also welcomes the efforts that Latin American countries are developing on their own behalf to advance their own causes and their own destinies, and the American initiatives taken in that continent to help the Latin Americans to shape their own destinies in advance, along their own paths, are appreciated by us within the framework and context of their just values. And today's invitation to participate in cooperation with you in this enterprise meets with welcome and warm applause on the part of our people to cooperate in the great initiative which has already produced the consensus and hopeful effect in that area of the world.

"The international situation is certainly not one which inspires tranquillity, Mr. President. We are going through a delicate phase of relations among states because of the buildup of contrasts and conflicts deriving in part from the diversity of concepts and in part from the very advance on the world's stage of new forces and nuclear aspirations.

"We know that the United States, in its policy guided with a lofty sense of responsibility, takes into constant account all of the complex elements that characterize these troubled but significant times in the history of the world. We are equally convinced that these lofty ideals on which the American people have built their present greatness, and that you, Mr. president, have so effectively recalled at the moment in which your high post was conferred upon you by your people, will always be pursued. The noble words which you so often uttered and restated in your speech in Baltimore, the principles you expressed with the vision of a constructive peace which may offer the peoples hope and faith for the future, find in us full response. We hope that all of your endeavors, so enlightened and outward looking both in the domestic and international fields, may prove effective and fruitful.

"It is with this wish and with this trusting spirit toward the future that I raise my cup, Mr. President, to the achievement of a just and secure peace in the world, to the fortunes of the noble American Nation, to your prosperity and that of Mrs. Johnson, to the success of the endeavors to which you are dedicated with your experience and wisdom, and to the ever vital friendship and solidarity between our two peoples."

The President's opening words referred to Prime Minister Aldo Moro of Italy and Mrs. Nicholas Longworth. During his remarks he referred to Anthony J. Celebrezze, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Senator John O. Pastore of Rhode Island, Representative Peter W. Rodino, Jr., of New Jersey, and Jack Valenti, Special Assistant to the President. He also referred to Amintore Fanfani, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Aldo Moro of Italy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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